Shakeup is not a common word on the Bill Snyder coaching staff, at least not recent history. After his return in 2009 to the sidelines of the stadium that bears his name, Snyder had a bunch of staff turnover in the first few years of the rebuild, but has had the same staff since the 2013 season brought Blake Seiler in to replace Joe Bob Clements and Andre Coleman in to replace Michael Smith, after both Clements and Smith were hired away after K-State’s Big 12 Championship 2012 season.
So it’s safe to say that an off-season that featured two coaches retiring, and a third changing position groups is a big deal for the Kansas State Wildcats.
We’ll take them on chronologically, though that still makes the biggest news first on our list.
Barely a week after National Signing Day, longtime Snyder assistant, most recently as co-offensive coordinator/QB coach, Del Miller announced he was retiring. The news came as a bit of a surprise, but it quickly came to light that a certain favorite son would be his replacement, and barely a day later K-State announced that Collin Klein would be returning to Manhattan after a not-quite-one-year stint at Northern Iowa to coach the quarterbacks at K-State.
This has been a nearly universally applauded move, from fans to players to fellow coaches. And he’s not unfamiliar with the current quarterbacks, as he worked with Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton while he was a graduate assistant for the Wildcats after his very brief stints in the NFL and CFL came to an end.
The list of accomplishments by Klein the player is long and impressive. The list of accomplishments by Klein the coach is much, much shorter, but includes tutoring two quarterbacks during his lone season in Cedar Rapids. One of whom, Eli Dunne, even earned FCS National Performer of the Week honors after a 418-yard, two-touchdown performance against Missouri State.
The second big move came about a month later, about a month before spring practice was to start. Mike Cox, then the linebackers coach announced he’d be stepping away from the Wildcats after beginning his tenure in 2012. The replacing of Cox was a much more difficult affair, and it was nearly a month before the announcement was made, just in time for spring practice.
In a somewhat surprising move, then-defensive ends coach Blake Seiler was promoted to assistant defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Seiler was a defensive end for the Wildcats during his playing career, but had worked around the defense while a graduate assistant before replacing Joe Bob Clements in 2013. Seiler tutored tow Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year players in Ryan Mueller and Jordan Willis, with both also earning nods on All-American teams during their record-tying 11.5-sack seasons. He also tutored Reggie Walker, who emerged quickly during his freshman campaign in 2016 as a force opposite Willis on the defensive line.
Seiler will be facing a very difficult task during the transition, as he has to replace all three starters at linebacker thanks to graduation and Elijah Lee’s early departure for the NFL. The cupboard isn’t bare for Seiler by any means, but it is lacking in game experience. The lone returner with significant snaps at linebacker is Trent Tanking, who played a much of the game against TCU last season. There is a lot of young talent at linebacker, and Seiler will get a good chance to mold them.
Replacing Seiler at defensive ends in former Wildcat assistant Jon Fabris. Fabris, the lone “newcomer” to the staff, returns to Manhattan after stops at South Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana, among others. He previously coached defensive ends for the Wildcats when some kid named Joe Bob Clements was playing for the Wildcats. Fabris saw nearly the highest of highs at K-State, coaching during the 1997 and ‘98 seasons, and coached Darren Howard on his way to becoming a 2nd round NFL draft pick.
Things have changed in Manhattan in the nearly 20 years since Fabris was last on the sideline. The stadium he once walked in looks nearly nothing like it did in 1998. But the man with the wired headset is still the same, so things won’t be too much different from the coaching standpoint.
Fabris, even with the big departure of Jordan Willis, has a bunch to work with, starting with 2016 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Reggie Walker. He’s also got several guys with playing experience returning, including Tanner Woods who has significant playing time under his belt, and a stable of talented underclassmen waiting in the wings.
While these guys may be new in their respective positions, nobody is a stranger to Manhattan and Bill Snyder Family Stadium.