For our next installment of the 100 day countdown to kickoff against North Dakota State University, 76 marks the days left until kick-off at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and the total points the first team put up in K-State’s spring football game against the second team. Technically, the final score of the game was 41-38 because Coach Bill Snyder always flips the score at halftime. It always begs the question – is the score indicative of a starting set of players that’s that dangerous, or of a team with little depth beyond the starting 11 on each side?
First of all, the first team won by essentially the margin in 2012. The 76-3 score in 2013 compares to the 77-7 final in 2012, except it doesn’t look as fun (77-7, seriously?). Yet there was talent on the second team. Daniel Sams led the second unit in 2012. One of the reasons Collin Klein was a great quarterback was because he was impossible to bring down, but the spring game is essentially two-hand touch for the quarterbacks, which highlights the speed of Sams over the toughness of Klein. Angelo Pease, who saw plenty of time at running back this year, was on the second team. So was Zach Trujillo and a host of other players that saw quality time last year.
However, there’s obviously a clear disparity here – the score of 76-3 doesn’t come about for no reason. K-State has always been able to plug players into voids filled by graduating seniors, but this team often gives the feeling of being of the verge of falling from prominence in the event of one bad injury. When Collin Klein got injured against Oklahoma State, the team just didn’t look the same the rest of the season. Granted, he was a once-in-a-generation player, but what about Ty Zimmerman? The All-American safety was injured and missed the Baylor game, and it seemed like the Wildcats forgot how to stop the run.
It’s probably unfair to lay the Baylor loss on Zimmerman and his replacement. Linebacker Tre Walker was lost for the season last year and K-State still fielded the best linebacker unit in the Big 12 (yes, Iowa State fans, the Wildcats did a better job replacing this loss than the Cyclones with Jake Knott). While Robert Rose looked stellar as the number one running back, there wasn’t much last season to indicate he could be relied upon if John Hubert was unavailable. There’s a reason K-State is able to plug holes so often – the players exist to do so.
I’m not proffering some conspiracy theory here wherein Bill Snyder promotes the first team just to confuse opponents so that they don’t know what to expect. But both sides run vanilla playbooks in the spring. There is no “best offensive versus best defensive players showdown” to explore what the units actually look like executing against each other. And the first team destroys the second team every year, regardless of depth or recruiting class richness. Sure, the better players are expected to beat the less good players, but a part of me thinks the game may be a bit more rigged than meets the eye. So I suggest everyone remain excited about what this offense will accomplish this year, but don’t be too concerned about the depth in the event of an ACL tear somewhere along the way.