Preseason Hype Won't Detour 'Cats

Thanks to a wealth of experience returning on both sides of the ball, including three preseason All-Big 12 picks, Kansas State enters the 2003 season with a bullseye placed on its back as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 North. But the media's ability to pick divisional champs in recent history hasn't been all that stellar, either.

So when he was asked about the Wildcats' being the choice to dethrone two-time defending North champ Colorado, Snyder was sure to bring that up.

"The media has picked the division champion just once in the past six years, so if that's the case this year we're in some serious trouble," he said. "I'd like to think that our players feel as though they can have a fine football team and there are a lot out there to accomplish. But I'd also like to think they realize a lot of work is left to be done."

K-State is not without some weaknesses either, according to its coach, as 11 starters have departed, including all-everything Terence Newman.

"Obviously, we lost a lot of starters so there are always some issues and concerns," Snyder said. "Probably the biggest question mark right now is putting the pieces together. That's still an issue for us. In terms of our real strengths and weaknesses, it's going to take a long period of time to determine where that lies. I'd like to think we're a better team than in the spring.

"Terence could do so many things. I don't know we have an individual in our program at this time that could do as much as he could. He was a very talented and gifted athlete. We certainly can't duplicate any of the things he did in one player. We have some very talented players, but it remains to be seen if we have someone that can play to his level. Can they top what Terence did? Probably not."

Snyder's team was only a few plays away from being a legitimate national title contender one season ago, losing games to Colorado and Texas by a combined seven points, so if the Wildcats are to emerge as one this season it will come as no surprise.

First-year starting quarterback Ell Roberson played a key cog in another prolific offense, and the senior returns for one more season. In a program that has included the likes of Michael Bishop and Jonathan Beasley in recent years, Roberson set school rushing records for single-play, game, season and career.

For the first time in several seasons, Snyder didn't face one question about uncertainties at the quarterback position.

"It is unique from that respect," Snyder said. "Ell has earned the right not have us answer those questions. He had a very good year and got better again this spring. I'd like to think the same thing happened over the course of the summer. He's still got some things he can improve in his game. But we feel like we have a very accomplished quarterback in our system."

Team notes

Not many programs around the country will play a 13-game schedule this fall, but K-State will after a some last-minute changes in the non-conference schedule. The Wildcats will play games against California in Kansas City, Troy State, McNeese State, Massachusetts and Marshall before opening the conference season at Texas on Oct. 4. How could a marathon schedule effect the psyche and health of his team?

"The way we had intended for it to take place was for it to be a 12-game schedule," Snyder said. "What happened was some uncertainty with the game at Arrowhead Stadium. If we didn't make a decision on another ball game, it was conceivable we could be left with 11. We were lucky to get the McNeese State one. We need all of the games we get, just because of the revenue involved. It was important to get that 12th game.

"I'm pleased that we're doing it. A lot of people are worried about a long season, but our players like to play the game of football. It's the more the merrier, so to speak. We've got quite a few young guys from the state of Texas and some of them have played both sides of the ball for 13, 14 or 15 games with the playoffs."

Snyder faced a question he felt he could do without, concerning his long-term future in Manhattan.

"It's been brought to my attention more times than I'd like to here, but I really haven't thought about it," he said. "I don't have the experience at it, but if you start to think about it and plan for it, it's probably going to come sooner than you'd like. As long as my health is good and we can do what's in the best interest of this University we will continue to do it.

"Whenever it comes time not to do what I'm doing right now, I think I'll catch up on some of the other things I haven't been able to enjoy since I've been coaching. I do have some other interests out there."

(CN would like to thank The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston for sponsoring our coverage from Kansas City. CN & The Nest would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, August 27th for our 2003 preseason tailgate party. Stay tuned to CN and 1460-KXNO for more details)

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