|Bob Stoops wins the recruiting game, but Bill Snyder won the game that mattered on Saturday in Norman. (AP)|
Not sure if you heard yet, but word around college football is Bill Snyder is pretty great.
The narrative of Kansas State football is being told again this week, educating a new generation on the greatness of Snyder. Snyder took over a team in 1989 that had not won a game for two straight years, had not won a conference game since 1986 and had two conference victories since 1985.
Talk about a recruiting challenge.
By Snyder's third year, K-State had a winning record. By the time he retired in 2005, K-State was known for football.
Now, Snyder is doing it all over again. The turnaround is not quite the same, ya know, thanks to what he had already built the first go-around. Still, it was a project.
Snyder took over a program in 2009 that had one winning season in the preview five years. What gets overlooked is he coached two of those losing teams.
How Snyder has built K-State back up is not all that different from how he did it the first time around. He finds players who fit what he wants to do and he puts each piece exactly where they're supposed to be.
"We say all the time to keep it between the white lines and play error-free football," Snyder said last week before doing just that against Oklahoma.
Here's what makes Snyder different from a coach like Nick Saban who also preaches perfection. Snyder's "perfect players" rarely have a bunch of stars by their name when they arrive in Manhattan, contrary to the crimson and cream they faced last Saturday in Norman.
The chart below is the average Rivals.com ranking of the last five recruiting classes at each Big 12 school.
K-State would actually be last on this list if it weren't for its 2008 class, which ranked 27th in the nation. That was the last class recruited by Ron Prince, and three starters remain. Three starters who were mostly afterthoughts of that class. Tight end Travis Tannahill was a two-star recruit; FB Braden Wilson was a two-star linebacker; and Collin Klein was a three-star recruit, the eighth-best player coming out of Colorado.
Oklahoma's first-team depth chart is made up of five three-stars, 15 four-stars and one five-star. Kansas State's first-team has eight two-stars, 12 three-stars, one four-star and one five-star (Miami transfer LB Arthur Brown).
These numbers could be more proof that we should ignore recruiting rankings altogether, but it says even more about how Snyder has been able to rebuild.
Snyder has always done best when he has a star quarterback (Chad May, Michael Bishop, Jonathan Beasley, Ell Roberson and now Klein) to go along with a good mix of juco and transfer players. What he was missing in those final two years before he retired was a good quarterback; he was actually working with higher-rated classes -- his 2002 class ranked 14th nationally.
On Saturday, Klein played Snyder football. He took care of the ball and didn't make any questionable plays that would have put his defense in a bad spot. Meanwhile, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, a once highly-recruited prize, made the game-changing decision, one that would drive Snyder crazy. Jones made a silly throw off his back heels that K-State safety Ty Zimmerman interecepted, setting up the Wildcats' go-ahead touchdown drive.
How did Zimmerman, who was in the exact right spot when he picked off Jones, end up at K-State?
Zimmerman's college choice came down to Washburn, a Division II school in Topeka, Kan., and Kansas State, the only major-conference school to offer. He had a scholarship and chance to play immediately at Washburn or he could take a grayshirt at Kansas State and put off enrolling for a semester.
He chose K-State, and is yet another example of how a good mix of undervalued talent, discipline and some Snyder-imparted wisdom is enough to survive -- even prosper.
Paper stars, be damned.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).