Texas Tech’s rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury looks like Ryan Gosling and has the charisma and personality of a rock star among fans in Lubbock, Texas.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder is often compared to a stern, but caring grandfather.
It goes without saying that Saturday’s tilt between the two teams represents two opposite extremes amidst the college football coaching profession.
One side is hip and new. The other might soon need a new hip.
Snyder was 39 years old the day Kingsbury was born in 1979, and was 61 years old when Kingsbury made his first trip to Manhattan as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback in 2000. At age 34, Kingsbury is the youngest coach at a BCS school, while Snyder, 74, is the oldest among all his peers in the college ranks.
For what it’s worth, Snyder’s players seem to appreciate his genuine concern for their well-being.
“I know Coach Snyder is the guy you want, because he cares,” kicker Jack Cantele said. “Maybe the Texas Tech coach cares, I’m sure he does. But I don’t think there’s anyone that can care as much as Coach Snyder does about us and about what’s best for us. He’s the most selfless person — he wants everything for us.”
Cantele was quick to acknowledge the age gap when asked how Snyder is able to relate to his players that are more than 50 years younger. In the age of social media and cell phones, can Snyder keep up?
“In terms of all the new technology, probably not,” Cantele said. “But he does a lot of the same stuff my dad taught me. Being hard-working and instilling those values in you — that’s all the same kind of things my parents did for me growing up, so I can relate to that. But other than that, there’s a big age difference.
“I wouldn’t go hang out with him on the weekends. And I don’t think he’d hang out with me, either.”
On the other side of the coin, Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, a Manhattan native, said Kingsbury doesn’t seek out his fame — it comes naturally.
“He is because he was successful here as a quarterback,” Wallerstedt said. “Just imagine Collin Klein or any of the big-named quarterbacks from Kansas State all of a sudden shows back up to be the head guy someday. Imagine the kind of reception they would have.
“Certainly Kliff doesn’t go out and promote the rock star stuff — he’s as humble as they come. He would rather go bury himself in a room and study ball and coach our guys. That stuff comes from the fans and that’s something he’s had to get used to — both at Texas A&M and here — with the fans embracing him as much as they do.”
But it’s not just fans Kingsbury has won over in Lubbock this year. He’s also popular with his new players, who see the first-year coach who played professionally until 2008, as someone they can easily relate to.
“There are six of us (on staff) that played here, so that common bond of being Red Raiders has provided some pretty good street cred from day one,” Kingsbury said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Having played the game and played not too long ago has helped us relate to our guys fairly quickly. Sometimes with transition it takes a while to get to know your players and our past has definitely helped ease that transition.”
For Snyder, relating to younger players involves taking a genuine interest.
“I just try to be open and honest with them and applaud them for the good things they do,” Snyder said, “and address the things they need improvement upon and try to relate everything to things other than football.”
But the contrasting styles don’t just end on the recruiting trail or the national perception. Kingsbury employs a spread attack offensively while Snyder opts to find a balance between the run and pass.
Easily billed as new school vs. old school, Snyder sees it more as the cyclical style of football continuing to evolve, with several aspects remaining constant.
“When I was going to school, the only thing they played was the single wing, and everybody was in the single wing,” Snyder said. “So there are fads that come and go, but those two words are probably significant — they all come and at some point and time, they all go.
“Really at the end of the day, I would have said the same thing 20 years ago as I would say now, and I don’t think I was incorrect then and I don’t think I am now. You’ve got to do the things that should be consistent all the time — not getting penalized, not turning the ball over and not giving up big plays whether it’s the run or the pass — those kinds of simple things that are easy to say and not easy to do.”