The last time the Wildcats took off their pads, it was after a victory over the all-time winningest program in NCAA history in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Now the Wildcats will look to ride that momentum from the first bowl win in 10 years into the spring and into the fall season.
“I addressed our players on numerous occasions about not starting over again even though it is a different mix of young people,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday afternoon. “But I really wanted to start right where we finished and build on that.”
K-State began their spring preparation last Wednesday when they practiced for the first time this year. The NCAA allows teams 15 practices during the spring season; the 15th practice will be the annual spring game for the Wildcats.
K-State will be returning 41 total letter winners and two All-Americans, junior defensive end Ryan Mueller and junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
“I’ve got to turn the page,” Mueller said. “Got to kind of realize that last year was last year. I’m looking forward to improving through (director of strength and conditioning Chris) Dawson’s strength and conditioning program. Also listening to (defensive ends coach) Blake Seiler coaching me up on my technique. Watching last year’s film on some of the things that I did well and ‘how can I improve’ is definitely my goals for the season.”
One big story that has unfolded since the bowl game has been the position change for junior Daniel Sams. In his first two seasons at K-State, Sams was a quarterback. But now, instead of throwing passes, he will be in position to catch them as a wide receiver.
“I told Daniel that if he wants to try his hand at wide receiver, that I would certainly give him the opportunity,” Snyder said. “He’s working at the wide receiver position and he’s growing. From a learning standpoint, he understood all the schemes and so he knew assignments of wide receivers. What he didn’t understand was the execution.”
A big reason for the position change has been the growth of junior quarterback Jake Waters. Last season, the junior college transfer struggled at times, but finished the season on a high note. He completed nearly 78 percent of his passes against Michigan, throwing for 271 yards and three touchdowns.
A big hole has been left in the backfield after the graduation of three-year starter John Hubert. The Wildcats will now have to find his replacement at running back. During his time at K-State, Hubert carried the ball 599 times for 2,993 yards and 28 touchdowns. The competition will be between junior running back DeMarcus Robinson and two players who were on the scout team last season.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” Snyder said about the running back spot. “There are three young guys right now, (Charles) Jones, (Jarvis) Leverett and (Robinson) and I wouldn’t pick one right now. (Robinson) is at the top of the chart right now because he came out in that position from the fall.”
The Wildcats have had four practices so far this season. The Wildcats will have a “full-scale” scrimmage today, according to Snyder. The spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 26.