Give Bill Snyder 22 youngsters and some duct tape, and he'll make you a football team. That's how I feel hearing Sooner fans complaining about K-State's victory over them on Saturday, citing injuries on both lines and lack of experience as excuses.
I must give credit where credit is due here. The idea for writing this was solidified after hearing the staff of GoPowercat.com rant on the point in this week's GPC podcast. It happened about an hour into the broadcast in response to a question of whether OU is overrated or K-State is underrated. GPC chief Tim Fitzgerald replied that it was probably a combination of both and goes on to challenge the idea that the Sooners are "rebuilding" their front line.
"First of all, who do they have on their offensive line? Probably a bunch of four and five star recruits. K-State's offensive line in that game was a left tackle in his first season of starting. A left tackle. Kind of important. The left guard was supposed to be the right tackle but had to move over there because of an injury. The center—the only returning starter currently on the offensive line—is a sophomore. And the right guard is playing because the supposed right guard also got injured and the right tackle is a 270 pound JuCo transfer who—in the first game of the season that he played in—was awful. That's what they just ran the ball down OU's throat with."
Fitz nailed this, and Snyder has been doing it since day one. Lets face it folks, for all the things that HCBS is, a premier recruiter is not one of them. I don't mean that as a knock. Manhattan isn't exactly a prime destination for an 18 year old star athlete, as is well documented. What Snyder can do though, is develop what he has. And right now, I'd argue that he's doing it better than he ever did.
Not many of the biggest names in Wildcat history were highly sought after by major programs. The Cats have a history of working with the outcasts and misfits of D-1 football and—like almost everything else Snyder does—it isn't an accident.
In the American Football Coaches Association's Football Coaching Bible published a decade ago, Snyder wrote a section titled "Building and Sustaining a Division I Program" where he touched on the finer points of his recruiting process.
"We felt that to compete for the blue-chip athlete and to finish second was a waste of time, effort and money that we could better use working with student-athletes whom others might have referred to as second-level athletes. We were going to have to fall back on them sooner or later, so we went there first."
"If a young man can meet our 16 goals for success, I am certain he can play successfully for Kansas State. Don't overlook the intangibles. We believe that quality people who truly care and want to be in your program are eventually the ones who give you greater opportunities to succeed."
As Fitz and the GPC staff mention in the podcast, just look at this years roster as an example. Our quarterback's second best option out of high school was a basketball scholarship to the University of Northern Colorado. Now he's in the Heisman discussion. Our running back comes from Waco and wasn't even recruited by Baylor. Pre-RG3 Baylor. Remember those Bears? Our number one wide receiver is an outcast from Oregon that used to be a quarterback and his two top position mates are Oklahoma natives that OU and OSU didn't even know existed. And lets not forget our defensive captain who came to us courtesy of a certain South Beach university whose remains are still ground into our Wagner Field turf. Not to mention that arguably the biggest touchdown in that stomping was scored by a former two-star recruit from Abilene with a 40 time maybe worse than Snyder himself.
I wrote a post about a year ago now where I said that Snyder was the most underrated coach in college football. A few people challenged me saying that Snyder gets a lot of love in the media nowadays. And they were right. He does. He's also highly respected among his fellow coaches. But opposing fans at high profile schools like Oklahoma can't see the fact that their team was simply out-classed. Not in terms of talent. Not even really in terms of game plan. They were out-classed in terms of fundamentals. Contrary to popular belief Sooner fans, Oklahoma did not lose that game. The Kansas State Wildcats won it.
They didn't win it with speed or flash or big numbers that are so valued in today's sports. They won it with integrity. They won it with discipline. They won it with heart and a sense of unity that no other program can match. Face it, loyal Normanites. The All Star squad from the Island of Misfit Toys stomped on to Owen Field and—for lack of a better term—beat your ass.
Now don't worry. The season isn't over. You've got a long way to go. And I'm sure Coach Snyder will be willing to lend Bobby some duct tape.