An overachieving nine-win season with the youngest roster Bill Snyder has ever had meant that hopes were high for Kansas State in 2017.
The expectations and excitement still remain, but they’re now tempered with a dose of real-life reality.
Snyder, who will turn 78 in October, announced earlier this week that he has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer. According to the statement issued by Snyder, his prognosis is “excellent.”
“I’m very grateful to those who have responded over the past 24 hours via calls, texts, emails, etcetera with such kind thoughts and words,” Snyder said in the statement. “And again, my apology to each of you whom I did not have the opportunity to reach personally before this release.”
Bill Snyder: A man for others.
There were reports last weekend that Snyder had been hospitalized. The official announcement included the statement that Snyder plans to coach his team this season and is expected to be back on duty when the Wildcats open spring practice on March 29.
Snyder’s grandfatherly appearance belies his toughness and fortitude. He eats one meal a day – at night, so as not to interfere with work. He spends his lunch break on a treadmill – studying film. In 2010 at practice, two players with a combined weight of 600 pounds accidentally ran him over. Snyder finished practice and was back at the next day’s practice – with a torn MCL and ACL.
If Snyder says he’s coaching in 2017, believe him.
Time, however, is undefeated. If there is a sense of urgency in Manhattan, it might be because this season’s team has the potential to challenge for the Big 12 title.
Kansas State is usually downgraded in preseason predictions – the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 last season but wound up fourth. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will go into the season picked to battle for the top spot, but selecting K-State as a dark horse is a smart move.
Quarterback Jesse Ertz stayed healthy for most of the 2016 season and will return for his senior campaign. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder gained 1,012 yards rushing and was solid as a passer. If he can improve as a thrower, K-State’s offense could be potent.
Ertz will have a different voice as his coach. Kansas State announced this week that, with the retirement of veteran assistant Del Miller, it was hiring Collin Klein as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach. Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist his senior season, spent last season on the staff at Northern Iowa.
The offensive line, led by tackles Dalton Risner and Scott Frantz, returns all but one starter and eight of its top 10 on the depth chart.
Receivers Byron Pringle, Dominique Heath and Isaiah Zuber all were productive and showed progress last season. The Wildcats will also add Carlos Strickland, a 6-foot-5 receiver who sat out last season after transferring from Cal.
Kansas State led the Big 12 in scoring defense and total defense, but Snyder has a number of holes to plug. Linebackers Charmeachealle Moore (a senior last season) and Elijah Lee (declared for the NFL Draft) combined for 185 tackles this past season. Defensive end Jordan Willis, who exhausted his eligibility, led the Big 12 in sacks.
However, if one thing has become crystal clear during the Snyder Era, the coaching staff is well-versed in developing players who can step into starting roles.
Snyder is arguably the most well-liked and respected coach in the FBS. His health issue has elicited plenty of support.
Bill Snyder decided to go beat cancer because beating Texas was getting too easy for him. Get well soon, Coach.
— WORLD CLASS HATER (@rynjrgr) February 13, 2017
Bill Snyder could beat cancer with a walk-on Oncologist, a JUCO surgeon, and an X-Ray tech he converted over from a Pharmacy School
— Jon Wren (@jon_wren) February 13, 2017
Prayers for one the best men in all of football. Nothing but respect for this legend. https://t.co/s1isKamVKL
— Baker Mayfield (@baker_mayfield6) February 14, 2017
In addition to his coaching wizardry, Snyder is known for his hand-written notes of congratulation and encouragement. No doubt his office will be inundated with get well-wishes. He probably won’t answer all of them but it’s likely he’ll find the time to read them.
Snyder will just make it part of the ramp-up to this season.