If Kansas State's Bill Snyder Can Do This in Kansas, What's Your Team's Excuse?
Every year, college football nation holds hands and sings "Kumbaya" as its respective schools reel in recruiting classes in hopes of bringing their team this much closer to a BCS crystal trophy.
"This is our best class yet," they'll chant. It's nirvana.
Except in Manhattan, Kansas. And that's probably just fine with the Wildcat fans.
Scout.com has been ranking recruiting classes and prospects since 2002, but Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder probably never noticed that because he's never reeled in a No. 1 recruiting class.
Snyder hasn't sniffed at a Top 10 class either. Or Top 20. Or Top 30. Or, believe it or not, a Top 40. In fact, the best recruiting class Snyder ever had, according to Scout, was in 2002 when the Wildcats' class was ranked No. 42.
No. 42 the best? Yep.
Since Snyder came back for his encore at Kansas State, his last four recruiting classes have been ranked, No. 85, No. 61, No. 99 and No. 112. Awesome.
Snyder's 2009's class, by the way, is on the same page as UTEP, Eastern Michigan and Idaho's classes. Even worse, you have to flip through five pages of class rankings to even find that 112th-ranked class.
That same 2009 class, by the way, is in its senior year at Kansas State. But that class isn't five pages later in the BCS standings.
Snyder's 112th-ranked class of 2009 is part of a team that is flaunting a No. 3 ranking in the BCS.
Let that sink in. Front page.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is currently No. 1 on my Heisman watch list and will most likely overtake West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith on other Heisman voters' lists as well. Klein is a product of the class of 2008—the year prior to when Snyder came back for his second tenure—which was ranked No. 45 by Scout.
The Loveland, Colorado prospect only had one school offer listed on his profile page: Kansas State. Maybe it's because he was only the seventh-ranked best prospect in Colorado, a state not exactly teeming with Heisman-quality quarterbacks.
Maybe it was because he was rated only two stars and ranked 106th among all quarterback prospects in his class.
According to an ESPN article, Kansas State doesn't look at star ratings nor does it look at highlight reels:
"They don't recruit from websites or ratings," said Irving (Texas) defensive coordinator Antwain Jimmerson, who coached at Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington. "On signing day, everybody is always talking about star ratings. Not coach Bill Snyder. He doesn't play that way. He wants game tape, not a highlight film. He wants the whole tape every time."
Jimmerson sings high praises of Snyder in that article.
"I've never worried about one of my kids going to Kansas State," Jimmerson said. "Coach Snyder is one of the best around. He is a man of character and he signs high-character kids."
And that goes to the very heart of the argument as to why Snyder will probably win Coach of the Year. Snyder takes the time to do his homework. Snyder takes the time to see the whole picture, not a recruit's glossy, mass-produced DVD with head-pounding music and eye-popping graphics.
Snyder is old-school in a technological age and he's winning. He's beating schools with higher-ranked classes and higher-rated talent.
When Kansas State beat Oklahoma 24-19 on September 22, the Wildcats' fourth and fifth-year seniors were from two recruiting classes that had a total of five four-star recruits. Their class of 2009—ranked No. 112 by Scout—had only one star-rated player in three-star safety Thomas Ferguson. The rest of that class's 20 of 22 prospects had no ranking whatsoever.
The under-rated Wildcats beat two Sooner fourth and fifth-year recruiting classes ranked No. 13 (2008) and No. 10 (2009) by Scout. Two Sooner classes that had a combined 12 Top 100 prospects and a combined 24 four or five star-rated prospects.
Kansas State is obviously a unique case when it comes to correlating recruiting classes to wins and losses, but it still poses the question: Why can't teams with more elite talent be as successful as Snyder?
Alabama, USC (if you count its vacates), Oklahoma, LSU and Florida are among the few schools that have recently translated those highly-ranked recruiting classes into great seasons. But what about the others?
Tennessee, Texas, Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, Notre Dame and Michigan all are giant question marks. Auburn is perhaps the biggest mystery of them all. The Tigers' last five recruiting classes have been ranked No. 8, No. 2, No. 6, No. 16 and No. 18 yet Auburn is currently 1-6.
Of those seven teams previously mentioned, five have had coaching changes within the last four years: Tennessee, Auburn, Florida State, Notre Dame and Michigan. Obviously, the higher-ups weren't happy with the direction those coaches' predecessors were taking, but they can't be much happier with Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik, who are both currently winless in the SEC.
How can those high-profile teams with so much talent playing in the bastion of college football, the South, be in the red?
Don't offer any excuses—they aren't justifiable. Better weather, more high-profile games, bigger stadiums, more passionate fans, more former players in the NFL and six-straight BCS Championships all point to a more successful football conference in recent years. More recent success than the conference Kansas State plays in.
Manhattan, Kansas is not a final destination for five-star football talent. Its bizarre weather may even keep some weather-wimp recruits away. But it does have Snyder, one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football.
Obviously, Snyder is superior in both recognizing and developing that talent. Maybe he can't recruit the big boys, but he certainly makes them big boys when they venture out on their own.
Kansas State hasn't made a BCS bowl appearance since it was pitted against Ohio State in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl, a game it eventually lost 35-28.
That may change this year.
But no matter what happens, you'll hear no excuses coming from Manhattan, Kansas.
Can your team do the same?
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