MANHATTAN — Kansas State’s annual Fall Football Kickoff on Saturday came and went the way it always does at Snyder Family Stadium.
Thousands of fans turned out to watch an hour of practice and get autographs. A few players shined. A few players were no-shows. And Wildcats football coach Bill Snyder pumped up the crowd with a story about the time Pete Carroll called K-State’s fans the nation’s best while he coached at Southern California.
Other than the nearly complete West Stadium Center towering over the practice — K-State’s lone public activity before games begin on Aug. 30 — it felt the same as previous years. Fans, coaches and players all spoke confidently about the upcoming season.
“We are excited,” senior linebacker Tre Walker told the crowd. “We have been working hard since August 1, really since after the (Fiesta Bowl). We have some new guys, some new faces and some new stars. We are excited to get this season kicked off. We are ready to see 50,000-plus strong here in two weeks against North Dakota State. We are going to take this thing home.”
There were signs for concern Saturday, though.
The biggest: Neither Cornelius Lucas nor Torell Miller were in attendance Saturday, for undisclosed reasons. A K-State spokesman would not comment on the players’ absences. Snyder did not mention either player when he introduced the team’s seniors to fans.
Lucas, a 6-foot-9, 328-pound senior who started at left tackle last season and made the Big 12’s preseason all-conference team, was expected to anchor the left side of the offensive line. Cody Whitehair took his place in drills, with Keenan Taylor, B.J. Finney, Boston Stiverson and Tavon Rooks rounding out the unit. Everyone in that group has starting experience. Still, Lucas’ absence will be noticeable if he isn’t back in time for the season-opener.
Miller, a senior wide receiver, was expected to see playing time as one of K-State’s secondary receivers. He is one of the team’s top down-field blockers and caught passes out of four-and-five receiver formations last season.
Daniel Sams and Jake Waters could both use him this year. It remains unclear who will win the starting quarterback job. Both Sams and Waters took turns throwing to K-State’s first-team offense, with both looking sharp against limited defense. Waters had the better overall afternoon. While he completed almost all of his passes, Sams misfired on a few occassions.
Some other position battles appeared more clear. Dante Barnett spent all of his time at safety with the first unit, s did Tre Walker, Blake Slaughter and Jonathan Truman at linebacker. Kip Daily, Randall Evans and former Trinity Academy standout Morgan Burns worked as first-team cornerbacks.
Competition will continue. Snyder will unveil K-State’s official depth chart on Aug. 27.