Campus Insider

Wildcat return and kick units appear solid after tumultuous two years

K-State's special teams have become synonomous with excellence over the last decade. All-American kickers Martin Gramatica and Jamie Rheem have become legends.

Something curious happened in 2001, though.

A chink appeared in the armor.

It started small — three missed extra points in 64-0 white-washing of New Mexico State that went relatively unnoticed.

The problem would become glaringly obvious the next week, though, when the Wildcats visited Norman. A blocked Kyle Altvater kick following a Roberson touchdown late in the third quarter, which would ultimately be the final margin of victory.

Oklahoma 38, K-State 37.

The rest, as they say, is history. K-State spiraled downhill, losing to Colorado, Texas Tech and Texas A&M in successive weeks.

After a shaky year once again in 2002, in which a blocked field goal attempt cost K-State overtime against Texas, special teams appears to be headed in the right direction once again. And while the kicking game appears to be improving, with kicker Joe Rheem perfect thus far, attention has turned to the rest of the special teams.

"We have a lot of young guys who do pursue opportunties to be on special teams," Snyder said. "But actually getting on the field are two different things."

That's because the units have become a source of pride, not unlike Virginia Tech, where Coach Frank Beemer uses his starters on special teams.

"All of the coaches who work the special teams units have access to all the player in our program, bar none," Snyder said. "We want the finest players we have on special teams."

That includes putting running back Darren Sproles at kick returner, starting safety Rashad Washington on punt returns, and backup running back Danny Morris on kick coverage.

"It's real fun," Morris said of hurtling himself downfield, running full-tilt for 60 yards before making impact. "We want to have the best players we have on special teams."

For the first time since 2000, that may be the case.

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