It’s taken a while, but I’ve done the math – not my strong suit – and come up with a number.
That’s the amount of yardage Kansas State lost last season when quarterback Jake Waters and receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton finished their senior years.
In most places, that number would elicit widespread panic.
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Waters passed for 3,501 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for another 484 yards. Now he’s gone and there are four quarterbacks – none even close to being proven – vying for his spot.
Lockett caught 106 passes for 1,515 yards and 11 touchdowns. And he returned punts and kicks for another 764 yards. He’s now wreaking his havoc for the Seattle Seahawks. For such a little guy, Lockett has sure left a huge hole.
And Sexton became Lockett’s perfect sidekick by putting together an outstanding senior season that included 79 catches for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns.
If K-State has 7,381 yards stashed away in players who are ready to step in for Waters, Lockett and Sexton, it’s not evident. In fact, all everybody has been able to do since the 2014 season ended with a bowl loss to UCLA is talk about how much offensive production walked out the door.
Still, there’s not a sense of hopelessness. And that’s because Bill Snyder is still in the building – a brand-new building, in fact, at the north end of Snyder Family Stadium. K-State has spent $192 million to improve facilities in the past three years, money available because Snyder has proven himself to be a football wizard.
It makes perfect sense that the media has picked the Wildcats to finish seventh in the Big 12 this season. Except for one thing.
Waters, Lockett, Sexton – you bet losing them will be felt. But how many players has Snyder lost over the years? And how many has he somehow, some way been able to replace a heck of a lot better than anyone thought was possible?
Michael Bishop wasn’t at K-State forever. When he left, Jonathan Beasley took over as quarterback and the Wildcats didn’t skip a beat. Well, not much of one, anyway.
Then it was Ell Roberson’s turn. And so on and so forth.
At one point, Kevin Lockett turned over the receiving reins to Darnell McDonald, who then gave them to Quincy Morgan. K-State did not waver from its course.
That’s the way it works in big-time college football programs. Sometimes people forget that coaches and their assistants are recruiting so that great players can be replaced adequately.
Just because nobody knows much about the guys on K-State’s quarterback and receiving depth charts doesn’t mean there isn’t another Waters, Lockett or Sexton in there somewhere.
But I get it. Unless you’re an eternal optimist, it’s not easy to elicit much excitement about the K-State offense. There is a reboot element to this season. In some ways it feels like the Wildcats are jumping off the Interstate to take a look around an obscure patch of land before jumping back on the super highway.
But seventh place?
Is the Big 12 really that strong? Outside of TCU and Baylor, where are the power teams? Can we trust Oklahoma? Oklahoma State? Texas? West Virginia?
Seventh place indicates a losing conference record and Snyder hasn’t had one of those since a 3-5 season in 2010, his second year back at the helm after un-retiring and getting K-State out of its Ron Prince predicament.
The Wildcats have gone 7-2, 8-1, 5-4 and 7-2 in the conference the past four seasons. That’s better than Oklahoma (26-10), Baylor (26-10), Oklahoma State (24-12) and Texas (21-15). TCU was 8-1 last season and the Horned Frogs are expected to contend for a national championship in 2015. But they were just 6-12 in their first two Big 12 seasons. West Virginia is 11-16 since joining the conference in 2012.
I didn’t have a vote in the preseason poll, but no way do I pick Snyder seventh. He’s shown too many times what he can do with a roster. Yes, the departures of those skill position guys is significant. But I’m programmed into believing Snyder and his coaches will overcome.
Remember, too, that K-State gets TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor at home. And that the Wildcats have owned Texas, winning six of the past seven games against the Longhorns.
I shouldn’t be having to remind the media that Snyder has a pretty good football noggin after all of these years, but it appears that fact hasn’t quite sunk in.
Snyder is a master. He’s going into the College Football Hall of Fame later this year and it’s not because he finishes seventh.
It’s difficult to deny that on paper, K-State looks like a seventh-place team because of its heavy offensive losses. But that’s not giving Snyder enough credit for more than a quarter century of being ridiculously underestimated.
Paper is one thing. Competition is another. I’ll be shocked if the Wildcats don’t finagle a way into the upper half of the Big 12. Snyder is a finagler from way back.