MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder says Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman is more consistent than a year ago.
Cornerback David Garrett thinks Coffman's more confident.
Left guard Zach Kendall thinks Coffman is just more talented.
Ask around the K-State football complex and you will hear all sorts of explanations for why Coffman — a senior who started four games last season before being benched for Grant Gregory in the final eight — was able to regain his spot.
It may have more to do with what he did off the field.
"He proved himself as a leader," Kendall said.
Coffman started that process during a team meeting in early August. He sensed uneasy feelings in the locker room. Players were competing for playing time, and there was little unity. So he tried to fix things.
Coffman stood in front of the team and told the story of his 2009 season. He talked about how difficult it was to become a backup, and how foolish he was for initially hoping Gregory would struggle. It wasn't until he accepted his fate, and worked to help Gregory improve, that he was truly being a teammate.
"Be there for each other," Coffman remembers saying, "and put the team ahead of yourself."
The room grew quiet. Everyone knew they were listening to their starting quarterback.
"I really gained a lot more respect for him for saying that," Garrett said. "Most people that lose their spot go off in their own little corner and do their own thing. But he stayed and was a team player. He did what he had to do to make sure the team was at its best."
Coffman wants to do the same this season, only under center. He's ready to make it through an entire schedule.
A year ago, he admitted to struggling with pressure and confidence. When he threw an interception, the poor decision stuck with him. He doubted himself and was hesitant to take chances. For the season, he completed 71 of 117 passes for 860 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Snyder wanted more, and decided to make a quarterback change before conference play. On a Wednesday in late September, he pulled Coffman aside after practice and told him Gregory would start against Iowa State.
"That caught me off guard big-time," Coffman said. "I didn't have any idea."
Coffman was hurt by the news. He didn't know how to handle it. But the way he handled the demotion told Snyder he was worth re-evaluating this time around.
On Tuesday, Snyder compared Coffman's situation to the way Jonathan Beasley helped former great Michael Bishop develop.
"He made the effort," Snyder said. "Nobody is happy when you lose the starting position. I thought he was good in the interaction with the other quarterbacks, and trying to help Grant along, having spent a little bit more time in the system. He was of great assistance to him. I think that's what good caring teammates do. He's certainly one of those."
Snyder said naming Coffman the starter was not a difficult decision. The competition at quarterback was close at some points, but Coffman won the race by a wide overall margin.
Winning the job has given him confidence, and he thinks the mental aspect of his game is vastly improved.
The change in his demeanor has been impossible to miss, teammates say.
"When he steps in and calls the huddle up, you don't see that look in his eyes anymore," Kendall said. "He's calm. He's smiling with us. It's fun."
That's not a word Coffman used a lot last year.
Carrying the load — Snyder hopes to maintain a balanced offense this season, but that doesn't mean he will take carries away from Daniel Thomas solely for the sake of throwing the ball.
If Thomas is running well, he will continue to get handoffs.
"We don't have a pitch count," Snyder said. "There is nothing that says 16 carries is the limit or 20 or 50 or whatever the limit may be. Whatever he can handle and whatever we need."
Powell slowed by injury — John Hubert was named backup running back for the UCLA game instead of William Powell. Snyder said Hubert, a redshirt freshman, played well to earn the spot behind Thomas, but added that Powell had missed some practice.
Powell was one of two players competing for playing time that didn't dress at an Aug. 21 public practice. The other was defensive lineman Raphael Guidry, who is the backup nose tackle.
Tight end talk — Sophomore Travis Tannahill beat out freshman Andre McDonald for the starting tight end spot, but Snyder indicated both will receive playing time in Saturday's opener against UCLA.