After an off-season filled with questions and empty spots on the roster waiting to be filled, K-State is ready to open up the 2015-16 season against South Dakota.
The Wildcats lost many key players to graduation last season, especially on the offensive side of the ball with the departure of quarterback Jake Waters, wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton and center B.J. Finney.
But with those voids, role players have stepped up to fill those gaps led by redshirt sophomore and first year starter as quarterback Jesse Ertz.
K-State coaches have continued to lay the pressure on Ertz and the other new starters as Saturday’s game quickly approaches to be sure that their new starters are prepared.
“I had this conversation with our staff this morning with regards to first-time starters – making sure that there is enough pressure imposed upon them that game day becomes a little bit easier,” Snyder said. “That has always been our agenda, so to speak, or part of the process. Quarterbacks get a lot of that through the course of their preparation. It is just being able to have the poise to be able to make those kind of choices and decisions and be able to process information rapidly. That’s true for every position, but maybe it is heightened with quarterbacks.”
While questions still abound for K-State on the offensive end, the defensive situation is much less fluid.
The Wildcats return six starters on defense and many role players from last years team. With all of the returning talent, K-State’s defense looks to be in good shape.
“We’ve all had the playing experience and starting experience, so we can just get in there and get right after them,” senior defense tackle Travis Britz said.
Hailing from Vermilllion, South Dakota, the Coyotes travel to Manhattan after a less than inspiring 2-10 put them in the basement of the Missouri Valley Conference.
While their record is unimpressive from last season, the Wildcat coaches have said they believe that the Coyotes are not to be taken lightly due to the number of veteran players on their roster.
“South Dakota didn’t have a good year last year,” Snyder said. “We all understand that. There’s a couple teams on the schedule that they played last year that, as they got better toward to latter part of the season.. What holds true is they have, what, 19 plus starters returning. A plethora of young guys who have started 20 games. Plus they showed that improvement last year… If you take 19 plus starters and they’re better than they were a year ago then this will be a improved football team. That’s a given.”
While the goal for K-State is always to get the win, there are many things about this Wildcat team that the coaches hope to find out during Saturday’s game. The players are a known commodity; however, the identity for this team is still out there waiting to be found.
“I think the most important thing for us is just to show that we’ll be better on Saturday then we were at our workout on Thursday,” Snyder said. “It’s just making the improvement. I’m looking for consistency out of the entirety of the offense, defense and special teams. . And the ability to do the things that make you competitive and not do the thing that cause you to lose ballgames, to be a competitive football team on the field in terms of spirit and fight.”
K-State kicks-off against South Dakota at on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
In addition to the game, K-State will also be inducting former players Clarence Scott, Michael Bishop, Darren Sproles and Jordy Nelson into their Ring of Honor.