MANHATTAN — Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder didn’t divulge any details about the status of Collin Klein during his weekly news conference on Tuesday, but, after a lengthy explanation why, said he expects the senior quarterback to play against TCU on Saturday.
“I certainly hope that is the case and I would expect that to take place,” Snyder said.
For the second straight day, Snyder was asked when Klein will return to action after missing most of the second half of a victory over Oklahoma State with an undisclosed injury. And for the second straight day, he stopped short of providing a definitive answer.
He then explained why he wouldn’t go beyond that.
“My interest in our players is beyond football, and I always want to do the right thing for young people in our program,” Snyder said. “I think any other coach in the country would feel exactly the same way. I don’t want to put any young person in any undo jeopardy whatsoever. That’s why I don’t address injuries.
“I have tried not to, probably said more than I should on some occasions. But I try to accommodate you. But I put my first and foremost interest in the players in my program.”
He also explained why Klein will not be available to speak with the media this week.
“He was perfectly comfortable with coming and visiting, I just wanted to not put him through that, because I know the bombardment that he would have to endure,” Snyder said. “He was perfectly willing to do so. He is that kind of young guy. He is a wonderful young man.”
Though Snyder’s comments continue to be more encouraging than he let on following the Oklahoma State game, questions will remain until K-State takes the field on Saturday in Fort Worth.
Klein left the game after scoring K-State’s final touchdown against Oklahoma State. Coaches took his helmet after he took several hard hits on his final drive of the third quarter and met with trainers on the sideline. That led to concerns he was suffering from concussion-like symptoms, but Snyder has not confirmed why he was held out of the game.
He stayed interested in the action, and walked out onto the field during timeouts to give his teammates advice, but backup quarterback Daniel Sams led the offense.
Snyder’s preference would obviously be Klein, who is considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy and has thrown for 1,875 yards and 12 touchdowns while also rushing for 698 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is 19-2 as a full-time starter.
But if he is unable to play, teammates have confidence in Sams, a redshirt freshman.
“I’ve been around the guy for two years now, I see what he can do and know what he can do. I put my trust in him,” running back Angelo Pease said. “He can make all the throws Collin make.”
Added senior tight end Travis Tannahill: “In practice, even yesterday, he was doing great. He has got the physical tools to be great like some of the past quarterbacks in this program. He’s just a freshman …. It’s going to take time. But after Collin graduates this year, if all goes according to plan, it should be Daniel’s spot and he will do good things.”
Sams has played in seven games this season, but hasn’t faced much pressure. Up until last weekend, the dual-threat quarterback was only asked to run out the clock at the end of blowouts, though he impressed fans by rushing for 253 yards and three touchdowns in limited action.
He completed 5 of 6 passes for 45 yards and led K-State to two field goals against Oklahoma State, but Pease helped move the ball by taking a few snaps out of the wildcat formation. K-State’s offensive strategy changed without Klein.
That could pose problems for both the Wildcats and Horned Frogs on Saturday, but Sams was at his best against the Cowboys when coaches opened up the offense and let him throw. TCU coach Gary Patterson has said he isn’t preparing for anything new.
“It’s the same offense,” Patterson said.
Sams appeared to be progressing slowly coming into the season. He briefly fell behind former quarterback Tavarius Bender on the depth chart and coaches questioned his knowledge of the playbook. But he has obviously made strides in the past few months. He is also one of the fastest players on K-State’s roster. His speed could be an advantage.
“He has become a little more invested in what’s going on,” Snyder said of Sams. “He has become a better learner … I think that has helped him immensely just to be more intense about his preparation week in, week out.”
In an interview two weeks ago, Sams said he approached each game expecting added responsibility.
“It’s just basically preparing like I’m the starter. It’s the same thing Collin does,” Sams said. “I watch film, take notes. You never know when an ankle is going to get hurt.”
Both quarterbacks usually see time with the first-string offense during practices. Sams might see additional action this week. When Klein was playing through nagging injuries a year ago, he missed several weeks of practice. Though he started consecutive games against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas, he didn’t practice in between.
Whatever decisions Snyder makes this time will be done quietly. Two years ago, Snyder surprised Texas by starting Klein in place of former quarterback Carson Coffman. Three years ago, he surprised Iowa State by giving Grant Gregory his first start.
TCU might be left wondering, too.