Big 12 Football Media Day Notes: K-State

K-State coach Bill Snyder, notoriously closed-lipped to the media, opened up a bit at the league's Media Days last week when talking about his love for the old New Year's Day bowl system and his belief that spending on college athletics, including coaching salaries, is "out of kilter." This is the fourth of IT's reports from Dallas covering every league team:

K-State coach Bill Snyder has taken flak in the past for his team's Charmin soft schedule, but this year, the 'Cats open on the road with USC. The Trojans are coming off a 5-7 season that resulted in the firing of coach Paul Hackett, but at least USC has a D-I pulse, unlike Akron, Indiana State, Northern Illinois and Temple, some of Kansas State's recent schedule padding opponents. Asked why a team like the Trojans ended up on the K-State sked, particularly in Los Angeles rather than Manhattan, Snyder deadpanned, "They must have caught me at a weak moment."

Kansas State lost 27 seniors from last year's top 10-rated, 11-3 squad, including two-year starting QB Jonathan Beasley. Sophomore Ell Roberson, from Baytown Lee, is ahead in the Wildcats' QB race, according to Snyder. "Ell went into spring as the No. 1 QB and he came out as the No. 1 QB," the KSU head coach said. Roberson has the athletic skills to follow in the footsteps of Beasley and Michael Bishop, both dual-threat QBs. Roberson is competing for the starting job with a more traditional drop-back passer in juco transfer Marc Dunn, who earned National JC Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year in '00 at Ricks (Idaho) College after throwing for 4,351 yards. Snyder, though, says the two aren't as different as it may appear. "Ell has the capability to be a drop-back passer and Marc has the capability to manage the pocket and he has escapability," the coach said. The guys Roberson or Dunn will hand off to remain virtually unchanged from last year, with TB Josh Scobey and FB Rock Cartwright both returning. Snyder had an interesting remark about the 'Cats situation at running back: "The guys that run with it aren't nearly as important as the guys knocking other guys down up front." I guess that's another version of the cliche, Games are won or lost in the trenches. If that's the case, K-State may be in for a bit of trouble. Three starting OLs return, but on the other side of the ball, the Wildcat coaches are facing a daunting rebuilding task after losing the majority of their DL depth to graduation. In typical K-State fashion, the rebuilding job will be greatly supplemented by an infusion of juco players. Three junior college transfers -- Henry Bryant from Garden City CC, Tank Reese from Hutchinson JC and Corey White from Navarro -- could figure into the 'Cats' fall DL picture. By my count, 34 of K-State's 107 roster members are from jucos.

Twenty-three of Kansas State's players are from the state of Texas, a Lone Star contingent larger than the 'Cats group from any other state aside from Kansas (50). Some names you'll probably remember from recruiting: QB Roberson from Baytown Lee, LB Josh Buhl from North Mesquite, CB Bobby Walker from Tyler Lee via Trinity Valley CC, LB Terry Pierce from Fort Worth Western Hills, OL Chris Boggas from Irving and OL Steve Washington from Dallas Carter. Roberson enters the fall as the Wildcats' starting QB while Pierce, who earned Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors last season, is a starter at linebacker. OL Nick Leckey from Grapevine is slated to start at center and Cartwright from Conroe is a returning starter at fullback. On the defensive side of the ball, at LDE, Thomas Houchin from Sanger (or Alax Carrier from Cy-Falls) joins Pierce and Buhl as projected defensive starters for K-State. In Snyder's 13 years in Manhattan, he has landed 80 players from Texas.

Asked if he favors a playoff or the current BCS system, Snyder said, given those two choices he would take the playoff. But, the K-State coach added, "I'm an old school guy and I have always loved New Year's Day and the great tradition of the bowl games. (New Year's Day) was more important than Christmas or birthdays." Snyder said he favored the bowl system until four years ago, but he changed his mind after his '98 team took a bowl bid free fall after losing to the Aggies in the Big 12 Championship Game. "I have great loyalty to the bowl system . . . but the bowls didn't reciprocate that loyalty," Snyder said. Even with that, Snyder said he wouldn't mind a return to the pre-BCS system, a system that often produced two National Champions, like in '97 with Nebraska and Michigan. "I'm comfortable with that and would be again," Snyder said. The coach also reiterated his belief, shared by most if not all of the Big 12 coaches, that the league championship game ultimately hurts the conference. He argued that the Title Game, despite bringing in $2-$3 million bucks per year, actually costs the league money because of lost BCS revenue by essentially ensuring that the Big 12 will only receive one BCS bid per year. Without the Championship Game, the league could land often land two teams in the $10-plus-million payout BCS games. �

A media guide aside: The largest crowd K-State has ever played in front of was the 83,082 that saw the Wildcats beat the Horns in DKR-Memorial Stadium in '99.

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