SE: Spring Football is in the Air
K-State football kicked off its spring practice schedule last week and has since been hard at work preparing for this year’s Purple/White Spring Game on April 23.
Yesterday afternoon, head coach Bill Snyder addressed the media for the first time since the spring practices began and had a lot of positive things to say about this year’s young squad.
“They’ve been invested in each and every practice that we’ve had,” said Snyder. “I’ve had no issues with their effort whatsoever. The very first practice we had last Wednesday, it was probably as good of a practice as we’ve ever had here that I can recall. It was a good as any in effort and spirit.”
This spirited 2016 roster returns 40 letterwinners and 16 starters from last year’s team. Six current players have earned All-Big 12 honors at some point in their careers, including defensive back Dante Barnett, fullback Winston Dimel, defensive tackle Will Geary, linebacker Elijah Lee, place kicker Matthew McCrane and punter Nick Walsh. The team also returns center Dalton Risner, who earned Freshman All-American honors after starting every game as a redshirt freshman in 2015.
“The main thing I like about this team is how everyone is so competitive and everyone is going after it,” said Risner, who was selected as one of 12 player representatives for the 2016 season. “This year we’re really going at it in practice. There’s no spot security; just because you’ve played two years, it doesn’t mean that’s your spot. The team is competitive; we’re working hard. I like the overall work ethic.”
Coming off of a season where K-State went 6-7 overall, suffered a plethora of injuries and closed the year with a loss to Arkansas at the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, the Wildcats are hungry for more in 2016. The 2015 season marked the first season since 2008 that K-State finished with a sub-.500 record, and that just doesn’t sit right with this team.
“When you go 6-7, it’s very real, and I think everyone has taken that and has used it as motivation to work a harder and prepare more now,” said quarterback Jesse Ertz. “I think it’s been a better spring than last spring. There’s obviously inexperience in some parts, but it’s going surprisingly well for how you’d expect to start practices. The spirit has been really good. There’s a lot of energy and people want to be out there.”
Like Ertz, Snyder can see the added eagerness and enthusiasm in this year’s group as well.
“Our players have expressed that they’re not happy with how last season went,” Snyder explained. “We’ve had a substantial group of young guys step up into leadership roles, and our player representatives have been very active in promoting the right kind of leadership. I think that has stemmed from distaste for not being as good of a football team as they could have been last year.”
Coming off of the 2015 season, there were numerous changes made around the K-State program. While the coaches made their own changes within the program, the player representatives got together and also made a few of their own.
“The coaches changed some of the offseason workouts up; they said, ‘Here’s the deal: we went 6-7, and no one wants to go 6-7. So we are going to change some things up around here,’” explained Risner. “So the player reps got together and came up with things that we thought would make us a better team. We didn’t like going 6-7 either, so we went to coach with numerous things.”
One of the things on their list of changes was simple: music during practice.
It’s a request that, though it’s been asked by players in the past, has never been granted – until now.
From modern hits to Jurassic Park tunes to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, Risner said though he never fully knows what will come on over the speakers at Bill Snyder Family Stadium during an early morning workout, he and his teammates have enjoyed the change.
But there is one rule Snyder enforces: no dancing.
“The only problem would be if he sees anyone dancing during practice,” laughed Risner. “But he’s been completely open and completely cool about it. As long as there is music playing, we’re enjoying it. Little things like that can make a difference, and we all appreciate it.”
In its first four practices of the spring, this year’s K-State team has already taken a step in the right direction, and though they’re young, the Wildcats are ready to work hard, never give in and make a name for themselves in 2016.
“After the season we had last year, you can’t come into spring ball or the offseason with the same attitude – you have to change some things up and be hungrier,” said running back Justin Silmon. “I think that’s where we are right now. Our main focus is trying to get better each day, and I think we’re doing that.”
K-State will cap off its spring practice schedule at 1:10 p.m., on Saturday, April 23, with the annual Purple/White Spring Game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“I like the way our guys are working,” said Snyder. “I like the unity aspect of this group, they interact extremely well. They have an excellent locker room.”
Tickets for the 2016 Purple/White Spring Game are on sale for $5 through the K-State Athletics Ticket office online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or at the main ticket office inside Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be shown world-wide on K-StateHD.TV and can be heard across the K-State Sports Network.