August 6, 2013
By Mark Janssen
Winning teams and teams with good leadership seem to go hand-in-hand, as championship teams are normally said to have great character.
Last year's Big 12 Championship K-State football team was certainly one of those that had both quality leadership and the finest of high character student-athletes.
The question now is with 27 lettermen gone, which includes four offensive starters, eight more on defense and two specialists, will character and leadership of the 2013 Wildcats be of the same quality without the anchors of Collin Klein on offense and Arthur Brown on defense?
"That is always a work in progress and very gradual at this time of the season," said Bill Snyder. "We're making headway with improvement, but it's a gradual process. If leadership was that easy, we wouldn't have a Leadership College on campus."
The Wildcat coach added, "It takes time and effort for young guys to invest themselves into providing good leadership. It takes young people willing to put themselves out there."
While Klein and Brown stood tall and hoisted the 2012 squad on their shoulders, as Snyder reflects, "That wasn't always them. They weren't always comfortable in that role, but they grew into it because they knew it was needed. Our leadership was special last year, but that could be said with not all, but several of our teams."
With every year, whether on the field with Xs and Os, or in Snyder's intrinsic values of the game, the Wildcat coach said, "Because we had leadership, or because we had this or that last year, does not mean it will automatically come this year. We need improvement individually to improve collectively. When you lose quality players, you work around their absence and work your system to the capabilities of the particular team."
While most point to the departure of Klein on offense, Snyder is just concerned about finding a fullback with the "toughness" of Braden Wilson, and a tight end with the "consistency" of Travis Tannahill.
And on defense, there's filling the cleats of Brown at linebacker, which could be Tre Walker, who missed the last part of the 2012 season due to an injury.
"To say Tre will jump right out there and take Arthur's place isn't fair," said Snyder. "Arthur had the capacity to be a playmaker from sideline to sideline. He wasn't the fastest guy in the world, but he would get to the ball faster. Once he determined where he needed to be to make the play, he would get there."
On defense where safety Ty Zimmerman returns as one of the top playmakers, Snyder said, "We have to get players working together. They have to invest into the system, and that can take some time. That's where we are right now."
BUSINESS AS USUAL: While each assistant coach was able to escape for a few days during June and July, it was pretty much business as usual in the Vanier Football Complex during the summer.
Snyder says it starts each year in-house where assistants are charged with "...communicating with their (position) players to make sure all in their lives is good and they're taking care of themselves in an appropriate way."
Then, there's the never-ending recruiting season.
"Each coach spends time evaluating tapes of potential recruits along with staying involved with an assortment of communications through e-mails, Facebook, letters and receiving phone calls," said Snyder, adding that coaches are not allowed to recruit off-campus during the summer.
Under Snyder's system, it's also never too early to begin preparations on the 2013 lineup of 12 opponents.
"Every coach is involved in that preparation starting with phone calls to acquire additional information or via a web search," said Snyder. "Coaches (one on offense and one on defense) are assigned a particular opposing team and will track down any information they can about the teams we'll be playing. Calls are made to a variety of people, which includes opponents of opponents."
Snyder says it varies as to how true those summer scouting reports will stay as the year begins in late August and early September, and on to the league season in October.
"Things you perceive as a weakness can turn into a plus, and what you think might be strength can change with an injury," said Snyder. "Those reports are very fluid, but it's never too early to start preparing."
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.