While mingling with a room full of Kansas State supporters on Friday at the annual Wichita Catbackers banquet, B.J. Finney met a woman who considered herself kryptonite to the Wildcats’ football team.
K-State seemed to lose every game she attended. So, she told Finney, she was considering staying away next season and watching the majority of games on TV.
Finney appreciated her passion, but couldn’t help but chuckle at her stories.
“Don’t worry about jinxing us,” he told her. “We will take care of business.”
That response perfectly sums up Finney’s optimism for the upcoming football season. Even though K-State has lost Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein at quarterback, second-round NFL draft pick Arthur Brown at linebacker and the majority of a defense that helped it win 11 games and a Big 12 championship last year, Finney thinks the Wildcats are capable of another strong campaign.
“We have a lot of young guys who have come in and started the program,” Finney said. “We are breaking them in, or, as we like to say, we are getting them K-Stated. Everyone is working hard and we are having a good summer. We are looking to keep that going heading into camp.
“It doesn’t feel like, to me, we are starting over. One thing we always have to focus on is improving, and we have had that mindset the last two years. We lost some key guys the last two years, last year in particular. But that provides an opening. It’s an opportunity for young guys to step up. I think they will.”
K-State football coach Bill Snyder also had positive things to say about his team’s progress.
Though college football coaches aren’t allowed to participate in, or watch, their players practice during summer workouts, they do suggest daily drills and receive feedback from team captains. So far, Snyder seems cautiously optimistic about how the team will enter fall camp before playing its first game against North Dakota State on August 30.
“They are going OK from what I hear,” Snyder said. “Probably a few of them (new players) haven’t gotten into it like you would like them to. But I don’t know who they are. They won’t tell me.”
The main question surrounding K-State continues to be who will start at quarterback. Sophomore Daniel Sams and junior college transfer Jake Waters entered and exited spring practices in a virtual tie for the job.
Both quarterbacks played well in the spring game, with Waters throwing precision passes down field and Sams showing off both his legs and arm. Snyder offered no prediction on how the competition will go leading up to the season opener, but said it will continue until one takes a clear lead.
He is more concerned with developing leadership. He has confidence in returning captains Ty Zimmerman and Finney, but has questions about others.
“We need more than two guys,” Snyder said. “We need a significant amount of leadership from a number of young guys in our program. We have two of them who have been in that role previously, both of them captains. You hope you can count on them and that they enhance their leadership and that a lot of others step up and provide leadership as well.”
If it happens, Snyder thinks K-State will be successful this season.
Friday was an opportunity for K-State fans to celebrate the past. The Wildcats are coming off a memorable year in which the athletic department experienced across-the-board success.
The Wildcats won or shared Big 12 championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball. Only Texas had previously accomplished the feat.
On Friday, fans could win posters and signed material that commemorated the triumphant year.
Looking back on the past 12 months was a treat for every coach and athlete who made the trip from Manhattan.
“It is great to see the alumni happy,” said associate head basketball coach Chris Lowery. “That’s what you want. You want the students and the fans and the alumni to experience things they are never going to forget. This was one of those years. We were just excited to be a part of it.”