Where does Brandon Banks rank among the top return specialists at Kansas State? Bill Snyder addressed that question during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday. The head coach also shed some light on the history of the Wildcat offense and discussed the seemingly vast improvement by a defensive unit that vaulted into the top 10 in the Football Bowl Subdivision rankings over the weekend.
You've had some really good return guys over the years. Where does Brandon Banks rank?
SNYDER: "Well, it's a little early yet, but it would be very difficult not to see him as one of the more prominent return guys we've had, certainly last week's performance indicated that might be the case. But it's awfully important to understand that it takes all 11 guys normally to make some of those positive things happen. That's what I was so proud of this last week, was that the first return was really an 11-man effort and was blocked extremely well. He had a lot of help along the way."
I was wondering if you could help me out with a little history. The Wildcat offense is being used now in a lot of levels of football. From my understanding, the name dates back to the formation you guys ran back with Michael Bishop. I was wondering what you were doing then and how it relates to what we're seeing now?
SNYDER: "Well, it's very similar to what we're doing right now. I'm not up to date on what everyone else is doing. But it just made sense to us a long, long time ago to put somebody back there who may or may not be your quarterback and is able to run the ball reasonably well and still has the capacity to throw it that you kind of help yourself in terms of the numbers game. And I think the way we fell into it was, again, going back into the early 1990s, we were a very good defensive football team and became a good defensive football team because we were able to put more people in the box than someone could block. We just had more numbers than the offense had. The only way to even that out was to dump our quarterback out and remove a man defensively that way or some form of that, which we did for a long time. It was a product of working against our own defense and finding ways to create at least a stalemate in terms of numbers."
Was the formation at that time the way teams are using it now with an unbalanced line and moving the tight end?
SNYDER: "Well, not as much that. It was there, it was a part of it. We didn't emphasize that much part of it. There's so much movement in today's game to create some of those creases and disrupt the continuity of the defense. We did it but not nearly as much as teams do today."
Speaking of the defense, even with the injuries and some of the things you've had, are you still pleasantly surprised with the overall development of the defense?
SNYDER: "Well, I can't tell you that I'm totally surprised. I'm pleased that we have made some progress. We have gradually done what we'd hoped to be able to do, which was to just get ourselves a little bit better ball game after ball game. It's pretty hard to equate last week's opponent to UCLA or to an upcoming conference schedule, so that improvement that we made this past week is a little more difficult to define just because of the differentiation in the caliber of opponent. But, I still think as we sort through it, yes, we did make some headway and more improvement. But we still have an awfully long ways to go and the competition just gets much, much difficult."
How was Alex Hrebec able to get back onto the field this week? He had a pretty good game and granted the competition might not be at the same level that you're going to see the rest of the year, but can you speak to what he brings to the field and what you expect from him each week?
SNYDER: "Well, Alex is a young guy that works just extremely hard. You know you're always going to get his best effort, whether it happens to be a Monday night practice or a Thursday night practice or this past week where ended up practicing on Friday or on Saturday. It's always a focused, concentrated best effort that he provides and that's all we can ask of a young guy. With the more experience he gains week in and week out in the system, you would expect improvement. Because he works so hard at it, you would expect improvement to take place and it has. He's quiet in terms of leadership most of the time but now he's becoming a little bit more vocal now that he's a little more comfortable and that's an asset for us as well. We're growing in that capacity and he's helping."
What is your biggest concern you're hoping to address in the next few days?
SNYDER: "Well, really, it sounds kind of clichéd and simplistic, but really it is us trying to become a better football team. As I've shared with our football team throughout the entirety of this season, it's not about whom we're playing. I mean, we're going to play good, good football teams. That's not what it's about. It's about us trying to correct all of the mistakes that we make and enhance the spirit and emotion with which we play and enhance the discipline with which we play and to enhance the effort with which we play and to become technically more sound week in and week out and be able to come off the field tonight and say, 'Yes, we got better,' and be able to go on the field tomorrow with the idea that we're going to try to improve in isolated areas every day and come off the field every day and say, 'Yes, I and we collectively got a little bit better today.' That's really what the focus is. It's not on one particular element of the game. It encompasses every facet of offense, every facet of defense, every facet of our kicking game. It's just an elongated, continual process."
What are your thoughts on playing a conference game in Kansas City? Is it something you like to do in the future or that you're OK with this year?
SNYDER: "Well, I'm OK with it. We've always had a wonderful relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs program and with their ownership and with Lamar Hunt when he was alive and with the Hunt family and all of the people associated with the Chiefs and they've been very gracious to us. We appreciate all that they have done. We've had great games in Arrowhead and have always enjoyed the experience. Personally, I like to play our non-conference games in Manhattan, Kansas. The more opportunities that we have to bring to Kansas State and to the community enhances the well being of this community, it enhances the economy of this community. The community has supported Kansas State football in an amazing way and I think it's important for us to be able to support them by playing here where we bring business into the community."
Bill, in your early studies of Iowa State, could you analyze the job that Paul Rhoads has done with his team and what you expect from the Cyclones?
SNYDER: "Well, I think Paul, as was expected, has done extremely well. No doubt about that being the case. I've known Paul a long time, ever since he was a youngster. His father, Cecil, coached for an awfully long time in Des Moines, Iowa, when I was at the University of Iowa. I used to make stops there and visit with Cecil and got to get to know about his son, Paul. He's just been raised with a football background, very professional and an extremely fine football coach. He's got an awfully fine staff and what I see in a nutshell is on both sides of the ball and on special teams they're extremely sound. They play extremely hard. They don't get themselves out of position and you've got to work for everything that you get. They're vastly improved and getting better it seems like every day, which is all you can hope for. I think they're doing super."