Kansas State enters the 2014 season optimistic after winning six of its last seven games in 2013, including a 31-14 victory over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
“I don’t know, we’ve been to 16, 18 bowls at Kansas State,” coach Bill Snyder said. “But I cannot recall a preparation that was as pleasing to me as the one that took place this past season.”
Snyder still focuses on daily improvements and not taking anything for granted. He won’t make any predictions but said he knows the capability of his team.
“My degree of optimism is negotiated daily,” Snyder said.
The Wildcats, picked to finish third in the Big 12, are ranked 21st in the coaches poll and 20th in the AP poll.
They return Jake Waters at quarterback, Tyler Lockett at wide receiver and former walk-ons Ryan Mueller at defensive end, Jonathan Truman at linebacker and B.J. Finney at center.
When he was in high school, Mueller went to a camp at Kansas State, thinking it was to teach kids about the game. When he got there, he realized it was for rising high school seniors. After running through drills, he was offered the opportunity to walk on at Kansas State.
Now, he’s a captain with fellow seniors Finney, Lockett, Truman and Waters.
“At the end of the day, it’s just being like a brother, like a family member, someone they can count on, somebody to be there,” Finney said, which is appropriate given K-State’s slogan, “It’s all about family.”
For some, it’s a family tradition.
Tyler Lockett’s father, Kevin, and uncle, Aaron, played receiver for the Wildcats. Lockett is poised to break his father’s school career records of 217 receptions and 3,032 yards. He’s caught 143 passes for 2,195 yards.
“He’s one of those guys that you leave the practice field, you go in your office, you look out the window and you’ve got the equipment managers out there twiddling their thumbs wanting to get the lights turned off, and Tyler won’t let them because he’s out there catching balls off the machine and keeping quarterbacks out to throw to him,” Snyder said.
The Wildcats will see where they stand early, when they host Auburn on Sept. 18.
“To play Auburn, Thursday night, ESPN, a team that played in the national championship last year, that’s what you dream of as a little kid,” Waters said. “You want to play in those type of games. So we’re excited, and we’re taking it as a challenge, and you know, we’re going to be ready for it.”