Preview 2017: Kansas State’s Slow & Steady Style Still Wins
In a league full of flash and dash, the Kansas State slow and steady style still works.
Kansas State continues to be the anti-Big 12 team, and it continues to succeed because of it.
The high-octane passing offenses rule the roost in the conference, and those without one – hello, Kansas – are trying to create one. And why not? The top passers are all amazing and the production is insane.
Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia – they all bomb away. And now Texas is going to crank it up even more with the new coaching staff.
And then there’s Kansas State.
The Wildcats aren’t above throwing the ball a ton – they did a few years ago with some success – but that’s not what they are. They’re about keeping games in control, while most of the other Big 12 stars simply want to get in as many plays as possible.
But for K-State, it’s all still working
With absolutely no big-time talent coming from the high school recruiting circuit – at least compared to most decent-to-great Power Five teams – Kansas State continues to be good enough to win around nine games a year and beat the teams that wing it all around the yards.
Bill Snyder might be a Hall of Fame head coach and a brilliant teacher, but how hard is it to create a system that relies on tough defense, an effective ground game, and fantastic special teams?
If a place like Kansas State can go to seven straight bowl games and constantly be a tough out against all those flashy, dashy teams, then what’s keeping Kansas from doing it? Or Iowa State? Or even Oklahoma, with its own brand of flash and dash built in?
It requires a culture and a mindset that doesn’t really care much about fanfare. It’s about playing in a place like Manhattan, Kansas and not worrying about the spotlight. And it really is about the attitude put in place by a coach like Snyder, who has set a tone that continues to resonate.
There might not be much margin for error – there’s a big problem when the system breaks down and the Wildcats have to get into a shootout – but the style also means the team can overcome the talent problems and hang with just about everyone.
This year, that style might just be good enough to finish in the top two and get to the Big 12 Championship.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are going to be better, and TCU, Texas and West Virginia aren’t going to be far behind, but Kansas State has the experience returning, along with a good enough schedule, to be deep in the hunt.
The offensive line that gets four starters back should be a killer for QB Jesse Ertz and a slew of good backs to work behind. Byron Pringle leads a strong group of veteran receivers who should be able to stretch the field a bit more, and as always, there are the selfless destroyers – like FB Winston Dimel and TE Dayton Valentine – who help make the machine go.
The linebacking corps has to undergo an overhaul, but the front four should quietly be among the Big 12’s most effective. The secondary has to be a bit stronger against the elite passers, but it returns stars in CB D.J. Reed and S Kendall Adams to what should be an improved unit.
And, of course, the special teams will be stellar. The kicking game will be among the nation’s best, and the returners will occasionally be gamechangers.
Now it’s up to Snyder and his good coaching staff to make a run. This is the best Kansas State team since going to the Fiesta Bowl in 2012, and with a few breaks, it could be the first outright Big 12 championship season since 2003.
Let those other Big 12 power-programs put up 4,000-yard passing seasons. There’s nothing boring about continuing to win.