Sports Extra: Players of 2011 Full of Optimism

Collin Klein will start under center this evening when the WIldcats open the 2011 season.

Sept. 3, 2011

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By Mark Janssen

If you’re any head coach, and especially when cut out of the cloth that Bill Snyder is, there is a lengthy list of worries heading into any season opener. While that’s true for today’s opener, it’s also a fact that the Wildcat coach honestly seems to be filled with a cautious optimism when chatting about the chemistry of this year’s team.

“It can develop quickly, but maybe it does not always come into fruition until the season starts. But sure, you’d like to see the right kind of personality develop in an appropriate period of time and I think we’re on schedule,” said Snyder. “Whatever it is that you would like to be, you would like to be that as quick as you possibly can and I think we’re moving toward that.”

While the studying has been done, Snyder adds, “You have to take a test one of these days and that comes up when you open the season. That’s when you find out if you are who you thought you were.”
That first game kicks off at 6:10 tonight at Bill Snyder Family Stadium where Kansas State will entertain Eastern Kentucky (K-State HD.TV and K-State Sports Network).    

While Snyder is cautious, his Wildcat players are feeling good about life.

“I don’t see a concern on this team. I’m optimistic. I can’t see a potential problem,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. “What we have going this year is more of a team pulling for one another. Our team unity is outstanding.”

Fellow linebacker Arthur Brown is new to the active roster as he was forced to redshirt last season after his transfer from the Miami Hurricanes. Now up close and personal with this football team, Brown said, “I’ve never been on a team that showed the energy that this one has. We are so energized and excited about the start of the season. This team has a lot of belief in itself.”

But Brown did warn, “What we have to do is make sure we put it all together. Talent is not a concern, but we have to make sure that we’re all pieced together on the day of the game.”

Junior wide receiver Chris Harper says he’s more optimistic than last year because “… we have more depth and we have a lot of guys returning. That’s going to mean more guys just playing instead of thinking about what they should do.”

And on any possible concern, he added, “We can’t be complacent. We went to one bowl game, but now we want to go to another. After you get one, you want another, and then a third. I think we can go out and win every game, and that’s exactly what we’re going to try to do.”

Sophomore linebacker Tre Walker says of this 2011 team to last year, “We have more aggressiveness, intensity, and toughness.” But, he added, “We still have a lot to prove on Saturdays.”

Team captain and safety Tysyn Hartman likes the “.. experience and competition for playing time across the board.”

Asked about any worries, he added, “Not a single thing.”

‘It’s an Honor’ for Klein to Start: On being K-State’s starting quarterback tonight, Collin Klein offers, “It’s exciting. So much has gone into it. There’s been a lot of hard work and preparation on my part, but also with coach (Del) Miller and coach (Bill) Snyder. Now it’s just a matter of trying to keep getting better. It’s an honor to start for this team, but you can never be good enough in this game.”

A native of Loveland, Colo., the 6-foot-5, 226-pound Klein started two games last year and played in 10. He rushed for 432 yards and passed for 138 completing 11-of-18 passes. In the 2011 spring game, Klein displayed his passing skills completing 25-of-37 for 358 yards and five touchdowns.

On his improvement from last year, Klein said, “Everywhere from foot work, to arm angle, to playing faster with the progression.  It all fits together as part of the big puzzle. There’s not an aspect of the game that hasn’t been addressed and each one is as important as the other.”

Klein added that he’s adopted the Snyder theme of “… constant improvement. Always working to improve day by day.”

Asked if he considered this team as “his team,” Klein said, “I don’t want to say it that way. This really is a family and there are different roles within a family. There’s some leadership that comes from the quarterback position, and I’ll do my best to provide that. But it is a family and we are the sum of all the parts. I can’t survive without every single person around me doing their job. It’s not my team, but it’s our team.”

Did You Know?:  Bill Snyder-coached teams are 18-1 in season-opening games, which includes 18 wins in a row. Snyder’s lone loss in Game 1 to a season was his first ever game on Sept. 9, 1989, at Arizona State (31-0).

Since then the ‘Cats have defeated Western Illinois, Indiana State (2), Montana, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Temple (2), Texas Tech, Northern Illinois, Iowa, USC, California, Western Kentucky (2), California, Florida International, UMass, and UCLA.

In games played at KSU/Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Snyder is a perfect 14-0 in openers.

Against non-conference opponents, the Wildcats have won 59 of their 66 starts with Snyder calling the shots.

No. 150: With a victory today, Bill Snyder will have his 150th coaching win.

Now into his 20th head coaching season, Snyder ranks only behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno (46 years), Nevada’s Chris Ault (27), Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer (25) and Troy’s Larry Blakeney (21) in terms of years of head coaching service. Of that list, only Paterno and Snyder have stayed with one school.

Trivia: Name the Wildcat playing today with the most consecutive K-State starts.  Read on.

Reunions a Hit: A third straight sellout crowd of 50,000-plus fans is guaranteed today as the Wildcats play in their Third Annual Family Reunion game. Two years ago, K-State set a record for a home opener with 50,750 for the UMass game, and last year broke that mark with a crowd of 51,059 for UCLA.

On the Colonels: Eastern Kentucky is coming off a 6-5, 2010 season and are picked third in this year’s preseason Ohio Valley poll… EKU starting QB T.J. Pryor is expected to miss the game due to a hand injury… located in Richmond, Ky., this is the first time the Colonels have flown to a game since 2002… EKU has lost 18 straight non-conference road games dating back to 2002.

Starting for the Wildcats: Today’s projected starting lineup will include eight seniors, nine juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.

Of those, four are transfers from four-year schools, nine come from the community college ranks, and nine are from the high school ranks.

Game Notes:
• This will be the first game ever played between the two schools.
• K-State is 111-26-1 when playing at home since 1990.
• K-State’s run of consecutive games with a point stands at 177 games, which is the 10th-longest such streak in the nation and the longest active streak in the Big 12. The last time when the Wildcats were skunked was Nov. 16, 1996, when they lost to Colorado, 12-0.
• Wildcat captains this season will be Clyde Aufner, Arthur Brown, Tysyn Hartman, Alex Hrebec, Collin Klein and Emmanuel Lamur.

Players to Watch:
Collin Klein will get the start at quarterback. It will be his third start of his K-State career.
Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown will make their K-State debuts at linebacker and running back, respectively.
Nigel Malone debuts at cornerback after transferring from City College of San Francisco.
Jordan Voelker will get the start at defensive end. Voelker came to K-State as a walk-on tight end out of Butler County Community College and was moved to defense in the spring. He was put on scholarship last week.
• B.J. Finney will be the lone freshman in the starting lineup. Finney spent the spring and early fall at center, but was moved to right guard roughly 10 days ago. Another walk-on, Finney received a scholarship during the summer.

Eastern Kentucky
• Jeremy Caldwell is on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award as a cornerback, given to the top defensive player at the FCS-level. He averaged better than 10 tackles per game last year.
• Jared McClain will get the start as a freshman quarterback replacing the injured T.J. Pryor, who was last year’s Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year.
• Jordan Berry averaged over 42 yards per punt last year to rank seventh nationally. He’s known for his rugby style of punting.

Trivia Answer: Manase Foketi will be making his 13th consecutive start as a Wildcat at offensive tackle.

Next Week: Kansas State will take next weekend off before hosting Kent State in a 6:10 kickoff on Sept. 17.

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