When Marvin Simmons arrived at K-State's media day in early August, he was engulfed by a mob of reporters and photographers, all itching to get a piece of the man destined to replace the departed Terry Pierce at middle linebacker.
Things haven't turned out that way for the 6-foot-1, 230 pounder out of Compton College in Compton, Calif. The first team All-American has yet to see the field, plagued by hamstring troubles and injuries that have delayed learning the system.
"Marvin is still not able to go full strength and he's so far behind in regards to learning the system that I think he's set back," coach Bill Snyder said.
Simmons was a Parade All-American, PrepStar All-American and SuperPrep All-American coming out of Long Beach Poly High School, but according to Snyder, accolades don't make the football player. Rather, practice and work is what it takes to get to the top. For various reasons, Simmons hasn't been able to put in the practice needed to learn the Wildcats' complex defensive system.
"I don't know that he'll be able to step up and give us a great deal of help this year," Snyder said. "He may surprise me -- I hope that's the case."
With the emergence of Matt Butler and Ted Simms at middle linebacker, Simmons' climb to the starting spot won't come easily, Snyder said. Even while the middle of the K-State defense was shredded by a Marshall ground game that gained more than 200 yards rushing, he remained pleased with his two-deep.
"We'd like (Marvin) to be ready to play, but at the same time, Matt Butler has played well for us," Snyder said. "Ted Simms has played well for us. I'm not unhappy with where they are."
STILL WAITING, PART II
Another junior college transfer expected to immediately fill a role was Malcolm Wooldridge, a 6-foot-2, 320 pound defensive tackle that was expected to plug the hole at nose tackle left by the graduated Tank Reese.
However, Wooldridge arrived at K-State grossly over weight, Snyder said. That has kept the first team NJCAA All-American buried in the depth chart for most of the season, and has likewise delayed him in getting the repetitions needed to fully understand K-State's schemes.
"He's just down on the depth chart right now," Snyder said. "He's got some guys ahead of him."
It wasn't that the loss was blown out of proportion, Snyder said during Tuesday's press conference. Rather, a loss is a loss -- it should be taken as such, should be learned from, and shouldn't be repeated.
What did draw the ire of the 15th year coach is the talk of National Championships even before the season began.
"Something blown out of proportion," Snyder said, "was whether we were a National Championship-caliber football team. I hope it doesn't become an issue or a problem."
If Wildcat fans were brought back to Earth following the Wildcats' 27-20 loss to Marshall on Saturday, they'll be seeing Snyder eye-to-eye. He said he has remained grounded amidst the hype that dated back to spring practices.
"You have to prove those things," Snyder said, "and we haven't proven anything. You have to go out and earn it. You don't inherit those things."
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