Lured into summer sleep by nightly locusts' lullabies, Midwestern universities and football fields finally wake and stretch in mid-August. The locust buzz is replaced with the busy chatter and hum of moving trucks, bookstore scanner beeps, late-night parties and "how's the team going to be this year?"
Most everybody, especially in football-driven communities, wants a piece of that conversation.
In Manhattan, summer talk about the Kansas State Wildcats is left mostly to vague hearsay. It has been that way for decades -- because of closed practices and limited media exposure -- and in a way has provided for a sort of Purple Christmas in early September for fans as they never really know what gift Bill Snyder Claus has brought.*
*That kind of system, with its built-in head start, also is handy in helping enforce the perception that Snyder is always three steps ahead of anyone in his evaluation and planning of his players, other teams, etc.
A lot of folks are happy to wait, of course. And, of course, many others would love to know on a daily basis what is happening with their Wildcats as they move through the summer and prepare for the season. What they can know, thanks to a former player who spent his career in the Bill Snyder 2.0 era, is that everything, including the weather, bows to the coach's unyielding belief in preparation for all situations.
"In the summer, [players] typically workout three times a day," the former player said. "Usually a 6 a.m. run, a morning lift, and an afternoon 7-on-7 session. Mid-week, the run is in the heat of the summer sun during the afternoon."
Then, as school is about to start, players' schedules move to fall camp, where intensity picks up.
"The summer program and fall camp are completely different things. Camp is non-stop football," the football alum said. "The guys wake up early in the morning and meet for a couple hours before having a mid-morning lift. After a lift they usually break for lunch and then head back to meetings for several hours before having an afternoon practice followed by several hours of meetings until late that night.
"If it's a two-a-day, they have early morning practice and an evening practice with meetings in between and after practices."
Fall camp amounts to more than 20 practices in two-and-a-half weeks, giving players a late crash-course exam of sorts in trying to position themselves on depth charts* to start the year.
*Oh, depth charts. K-State famously puts out an initial two-deep to start the season that, barring any majorly significant in-season injury or roster move, remains unchanged in media game notes or online for the year.
If that fall-camp schedule sounds like a grind, that's because it is, even for the players.
"At [the end of fall camp], the guys should start to get pretty excited and anxious as game week approaches," the former player said. "As camp deepens, your body and mind start to wear down, but when camp comes to an end and school starts, it sort of lets your mind and body refresh.
"Instead of football all day long, you experience a nice change of pace. The students are back, Manhattan is packed again, and you can really feel the atmosphere gain life."
And, the results of the players' time, energy and effort through the off-season are taking shape.
"The guys should really have an understanding of where they stand on the depth chart for offense, defense, and special teams," the former player said. "After over 20 practices in just under three weeks, guys find their roles."
With things rounding into shape, what are K-State coaches expecting at this point, with school beginning Monday, Aug. 24, and the first game set for Sept. 5?
"At this point, with camp coming to a close, everything should be starting to click," the former player said. "Depth charts shouldn't be too fluid at this point. And, when school starts, they will probably start game planning for South Dakota.
"The coaches expect consistent play at a high level. They expect practices to go smoothly with very few big mistakes."
As for game planning for the Coyotes?
"We game plan as hard for a small school as we do for Oklahoma and TCU," he said. "There is so much that goes into the first game of the season and a lot of times, those schools treat them as the Super Bowl. You have to be ready."
To be continued tomorrow.