State of the Hogs: A Cotton Thread

Bill Snyder has a link to the Razorbacks if you really dig deep. Or does it go back to Georgia Tech?

So what does Kansas State have in relation to Arkansas? Maybe everything. Or maybe it all goes back to Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd.

But there is a common denominator to both programs. Bill Snyder appears to have some of Frank Broyles in his coaching style.

An oldtimer who has watched every Kansas State game -- most of them from start to end -- brought up the common thread while trying to describe the way the Wildcats play under head coach Bill Snyder.

"You know it goes back to Hayden Fry," he said, "and then you realize that Fry did coach under Broyles (in 1961) before he became head coach at SMU."

Oh, my gosh. That's it. And if you watch Snyder's teams through the years, they look like a Broyles team. They play defense, rely on the kicking game and than adapt to what the offensive players can do. But most of the time it comes back to running the ball.

There's that common thread in many of the Fry proteges -- Barry Alvarez, Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Bret Bielema, Dan McCarney, Chuck Long, Jim Leavitt, Kirk Ferentz and Bo Pelini -- that remind of what Fry did at Iowa. And Broyles at Arkansas.

Snyder was offensive coordinator under Fry at North Texas, then for 10 seasons at Iowa. That was perfect preparation to do what no one else could do in modern times, win at Manhattan, Kan.

Actually, he's done it in two different shifts. Perhaps he should have been national coach of the year this season for taking the Wildcats to 9-2 and second place in the Big 12, losing only to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

If you want to pick a coach in Arkansas history that had teams that most resemble how Snyder's 2011 team plays it might be Ken Hatfield. "That's a good analogy," the oldtimer said. "Shorten the game, run the ball and play defense. But Snyder will pass more than Ken did -- if he has the quarterback and receivers.

"But if he doesn't, he'll sure find what his players can do and never ask them to do more. And they get better all season long. That's the mark of Snyder's teams at Kansas State. They get better every step of the way."

They do what Bobby Petrino teams do, too. Snyder lets his playmakers make plays.

"I don't think they have nearly the amount of playmakers at Kansas State that they have at Arkansas right now, but you can trust one thing and that's that Snyder won't panic. He's as patient as any coach in America.

"He'll figure out how to keep his team in the game. They are going to play hard and you have to go beat them."

They do have some playmakers. They are excellent at quarterback and middle linebacker. Collin Klein is the offensive leader, Arthur Brown the defensive bell cow.

Does Klein remind the K-State authority of anyone?

"For those that remember, think Scott Bull," he said. "He's long and lanky like Bull. Maybe Bull threw it better, but as far as top end speed, maybe Klein is faster. But they are the same type leaders. They both move the chains."

That's bad news for the Hogs. For those that don't remember, Bull quarterbacked the Hogs to the 1976 Cotton Bowl championship, knocking off a highly regarded SEC team, Georgia.

"Klein is the ultimate competitor," he said. "He'll have both elbows bleeding, his helmet knocked cockeye and he'll run for first downs and complete passes. They may not be pretty, but they are complete.

"And he'll make a corner route pass that you don't believe he can make. He will look ragged, but he'll be effective."

The offense is built for Klein. There's a hint of option, but most of the time it's blocked for the quarterback to end up with the ball.

"They'll run quarterback lead plays, called runs," he said. "Then, when it looks like an option, really it's a load play with the back leading for him to keep it.

"There's some Tim Tebow in Klein, but Tebow was more top-heavy than Klein. Like I said, imagine Bull with the long legs and long arms. And he's tough like Bull."

Defensively, Brown is the key. He's fast and explosive. He doesn't make mistakes. He was a blue chipper from Wichita who went to Miami with much fanfare, then landed at K-State on the rebound.

"He's a very good player, as good as advertised when Miami got him," the K-State man said. "He's the one who made the play on Robert Griffin to get them the win in that game. He will make some plays.

"Then they have a very good corner, Nigel Malone. He's not very big, but he can take one man away. NFL guys like him. They will move him from side to side on who they think is the best receiver. But Arkansas neutralizes that because they don't have just one."

There is great respect for Snyder from this guy. But he isn't sure how he does it in some regards.

"It's a CIA deal, you know," our man said. "They have good players, but you've never heard of them. No one is really sure where they come from or how they get to Manhattan."

Seriously?

"Oh, yeah," he said. "He works the devil out of the Kansas JCs. They love him at those schools. He'll find them players and they give them back two years later. He puts them in there and they make sure they make it to Manhattan."

That sounds like a lot of respect for the Wildcats in the Cotton Bowl from this corner.

"Oh, yeah, they'll play well," he said. "I think Kansas State is good, but I'm not sure how good. I don't see much defense in the Big 12 this year and I don't see many talented, big-time defensive linemen. The Arkansas defensive line is better than most in the Big 12.

"I don't see great running backs in the Big 12 this year. That's the difference between the Big 12 and the SEC this year.

"But Kansas State will milk the clock and play sound. The one thing that could make it tough for K-State is if Arkansas gets off quick. They have the big-play potential to get an early lead and that could make it tough for the way Snyder wants to play with this team."

And if some old Razorbacks are watching, they might think Snyder wants to play like the Razorbacks of the early 1960s. And that's a tough team to beat.

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