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AFTER SPRING COMES SUMMER ... FOR THE WILDCATS

Also See: K-State Evens Series with Missouri, 8-5;
Wildcats Dominate Home Meet, Break More Records

AFTER SPRING COMES SUMMER ... FOR THE WILDCATS

By Mark Janssen

In the fall, you play the games; then comes the winter off-season program; next is the 15-practice spring season; and then summer time when sessions are organized, but without the watchful eyes of the coaches.
 
Following last Saturday's spring game, head coach Bill Snyder addressed the summer goals:  "There needs to be continued continuity and a drawing together ... unification.  We've taken a great stride, but we can draw closer.  We'll continue trying to do that through some summer with some team activities."

The mission will be to establish a higher level of emotion, and spirit, and enthusiasm.  All were areas where Snyder says have been "... developed, but also go hidden at times."
 
Plus, there are the mechanical things that each and every Wildcat player needs to improve on.
 
"We need to become a stronger football team, a faster football team, and a quicker football team," he said.  And whether on offense or defense, he continued, "There are things we need to improve on every single day.
 
But the biggest thing is commitment, leaving him to ask, "How committed are we?"
 
MR. KLEIN, AND THE OFFENSE:
Coming out of the spring game there was plenty of reason for optimism starting with the performance of junior Collin Klein at quarterback - 25-of-37 for 358 yards and five touchdowns.
 
"He's made a lot of progress.  He's playing with confidence," said wide receiver Chris Harper, who snagged two passes for 22 yards, which included the final 15-yarder for a touchdown.  "He's been doing what he's been doing all spring.  He's been great.  Collin has a chance to be the starter, and he's taking the bull by the horns."
 
On the flip side of the field, cornerback David Garrett said of Klein's improvement, "His actions, throws and arm power are all better, as well as his decisions.  His decision-making has improved on knowing when to throw, and knowing when to run.  He is just a year older and is getting more experience for the game.  I see a lot of positive things going his direction."
 
On his own game, Klein summarizes, "This is just the first step.  I still have a lot of things I can get better at.  We'll just see what happens."
 
Needing growth and a better unification on and off the field is the offensive line where three starters from the 2010 season are missing.  Again, Snyder points to the summer months as a pivotal time of the calendar year.
 
"Offensive linemen are a strange group, but there's something really special about offensive linemen in how they draw together and how they bond. The group we had last year with Zach (Kendall), (Wade) Weibert and (Kenneth) Mayfield ... all those guys were so close," said Snyder. "After the spring game, I'm sure they were out at the lake some place sitting in a boat having a totty and enjoying themselves."
 
"There's something about how offensive linemen bond together," said Snyder. "This group isn't there yet by any stretch of the imagination, but the good thing is that they want to be there, but they just don't exactly know how to do it yet.  But they are getting closer, and closer, and closer."
 
A part of that closeness a year ago was tackle Clyde Aufner, who has taken it upon himself to lead this o-line cast of 2011.
 
"Experience is something you can't coach, but we've got some younger guys coming up that are getting into some playing roles," said Aufner.  "They have talent, so it's just about getting their technique right and getting them ready."
 
AND ON DEFENSE...
There is an equal need to come together on the defensive line with the arrival of such newcomers as Meshak Williams, a transfer from Hutchinson Community College.
 
"I feel the defense is pretty tight because we always hang around each other on and off the field," Williams said.  "Even last night we were talking about what we were going to do today with the offense.  We are all tight and I think that is going to be a big part of this program, knowing we have that kind of brotherhood."
 
Into the summer, such returnees as linebacker Tre Walker says, "I want to do anything I can do to help with a defensive attitude, whether that's saying, 'You are not going to run on us, or, you are not going to pass on us.'  I think our attitudes and mindsets have changed from last year."
 
NEXT COMES THE FALL SEASON
While playing the Miami Hurricanes in the non-conference portion of the season, and nine Big 12 games to follow, Harper said of the message Snyder is sending to the team is: "You know, he's the same guy.  I think he thinks we're capable of being pretty good, but he doesn't want us to get complacent because we've got to get a lot better."


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