Two weeks into spring practices, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder finds himself looking for more.
In the week since he first spoke of the progress made so far leading up to the April 27 spring game, Snyder said very little has changed.
“It wasn’t any different than it was last week — inconsistent, up and down,” he said. “I don’t think we’re a better team today than we were last week, and that concerns me a great deal. Not much has changed.”
The Wildcats are looking to fill four holes on offense and seven holes on defense as they prepare for the 2013-14 season. But Snyder said he also desires competition at the spots that are solidly filled by returners. And he’s not seeing it yet.
Snyder said very few guys are clearly standing out among the players they are directly competing with.
“When I say we’ve been inconsistent and haven’t gotten any better, no one has put themselves in a position to take command of any of those seven positions on the defensive side,” he said. “On the offensive side, I’ve mentioned four positions, and that has remained exactly the same.”
The Wildcats don’t have every player for next season’s roster available to them just yet, and there are a few more players coming in who might factor into the defensive game plan.
Snyder said they can’t focus on those players and whether they fit in, though, because they have to form the best team possible with what they have right now. And nothing can be decided about those other players until they actually arrive in Manhattan.
“I learned a long time ago if you put all of your marbles in a basket that you don’t have any control over, it might create some problems for you,” Snyder said. “I don’t count on that until it happens. Once they’re here and we see how they fit in the program, then we can see where they might fit in. As far as trying to project, that can be a disaster.”
Many of the open spots on the defensive side of the ball rest along the defensive line, where the Wildcats lost all four of the players they leaned on last season. There are some returners with experience, but some of the newcomers who were expected to factor in aren’t picking it up as fast as expected.
Snyder said a player like Devon Nash, a junior college transfer who was expected to step in and compete right away, is still trying to grasp everything and make the adjustment to Division-I football.
“He’s a little lost,” Snyder said. “That’s probably not the best way to put it — he’s just still getting acclimated. There’s a lot of things that are very different, the pace, the learning curve is very different, the demands and expectations are extremely different. He’s working with the twos and threes.”
Offensively, the Wildcats feature a strong enough group of receivers and a returning all-Big 12 running back in John Hubert, which suggest they could be more balanced this season.
With Collin Klein’s graduation, the Wildcats are left with a competition between sophomore Daniel Sams and junior college transfer Jake Waters.
Snyder said if their personnel gives them the opportunity to be more balanced, they will be.
“The potential to be more balanced is certainly there, but that’s always our intent,” he said. “In practice, if we throw it once, we’re going to run it once. We’re going to prepare as a balanced team on offense. The game itself dictates exactly what’s going to take place. Balance, to us, gives us the opportunity to have a more complete package.”
Snyder said they’re integrating all of the players into the systems the same way, and looking to create the competitions needed to make everyone better. And he said that starts with teaching it consistently.
“I’ll always ask our coaches when we meet with players and coach them on the field, and I don’t care how long they’ve been in the system, we need to teach everyone as if they just walked in the door, and be precise about or teaching and take them up from ground level,” Snyder said. “It goes back to taking nothing for granted. It’s not a matter of not having guys that we haven’t seen, even though they weren’t starters. We have guys here we’ve seen and have an understanding of their capabilities.
“The key element is trying to define exactly what the strengths are of the young people we have and try to, at the end of the day, play to our strengths.”
Specialists looking to stand out
Snyder said they have a few players that are working out to replace kicker Anthony Cantele and punter Ryan Doerr.
Jack Cantele, the younger brother of Anthony, is the leading competitor at place kicker, while Ian Patterson is leading the way for kickoff duties. Mark Krause is looking to secure the job as punter.
But Snyder said no one has locked down a spot just yet.
“Jack Cantele is presently the number one kicker, Ian Patterson is behind him,” he said. “They’re not where I need or want them to be. They’re competitive, but competitive on a different level. Mark Krause is doing our punting, and hasn’t developed the consistency that we would like yet. We still have growth there.”