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K-State's Snyder voted AP Big 12 coach of the year

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K-State's Snyder voted AP Big 12 coach of the year

Bill Snyder said he returned to Kansas State four years ago to ``calm the waters.''

Instead, he stirred up college football.

The 73-year-old coach, refreshed and rejuvenated after a brief retirement, has once again raised a downtrodden program to national prominence. The seventh-ranked Wildcats won only their second Big 12 title and the third conference championship in their 117-year history, and will play Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl next month.

His star quarterback, Collin Klein, is among three Heisman Trophy finalists, and several other players on a team whose only loss came at Baylor late in the season have futures in the NFL.

It's no surprise that Snyder was the unanimous choice as AP's Big 12 coach of the year.

``There's a lot of people who invest a lot of emotion, a lot of spirit, and probably who as much as anything genuinely care,'' Snyder said. ``Certainly that embraces all of our players and all our staff and all the support people that we have in our program.''

Snyder joined Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops as the only three-time winners of the award on Tuesday. He also won it last season, when he guided the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl, and in 1998, when Kansas State came up just short of playing for a national championship.

The award was voted on by 18 reporters who regularly cover the conference. The players of the year and All-Big 12 teams will be announced Wednesday.

Kansas State (11-1, 8-1) was predicted to finish this season in the middle of the Big 12, a league that suddenly featured three returning conference champions in Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU.

Things started slowly, too, with the Wildcats struggling early in a win over Missouri State.

Then they began to pick up momentum.

They ran roughshod over Miami, a team that tied for its division title in the ACC. And after an easy win over North Texas, Kansas State beat then-No. 6 Oklahoma on the road.

The Wildcats' next big showdown came on the road against the Mountaineers, at the time one of the top teams in the country. Kansas State grounded Geno Smith and Co. in a 55-14 blowout.

Remarkably consistent all season, the Wildcats finally cracked on a Saturday night in Waco, Texas. They had climbed to No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history after Alabama's stunning loss to Texas A&M, but were done in by turnovers and blown assignments in a 52-24 loss to the Bears that dashed the Wildcats' national championship dreams.

Never more was Snyder's even keel more valuable.

After a week off, the Wildcats returned to the field for their season finale Saturday night against Texas. They needed a victory to wrap up their first Big 12 title since 2003, and scored 35 second-half points in a 42-24 victory on senior night.

Snyder even allowed a little smile to slip in the postgame celebration.

``It means an awful lot to all of us,'' he said. ``A great deal to the young people in our program - they were excited about it. Obviously I speak for everybody in our football family, I think it's significant and important for each and every one of us.''

The turnaround from a five-win team in the final year of Ron Prince's first tenure to the opportunity for the first 12-win season in school history with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl mirrors in many ways Snyder's initial turnaround, dubbed by many the ``Miracle in Manhattan.''

Kansas State had been winless the two seasons before his arrival in 1989, but slowly became one of the most gritty, consistent and well-coached programs in college football.

It all culminated with the Wildcats' first Big 12 title in 2003.

``I think I've addressed this team, when I first came back, they were in position to maybe - not totally replicate that, but become maybe the second-greatest turnaround,'' Snyder said of his return from retirement, when he promised to ``calm the waters'' for a program that had backslid.

``When you look back at fifth-years seniors, they won five, then they won six, then they won seven, and won 10 and 11. It wasn't sudden, and that's exactly what happened the first time.''

Snyder's formula doesn't rely on blue-chip recruits.

Instead, his coaching staff slowly and methodically mines high schools and junior colleges for players who fit their system, and then ensures they buy into the values they represent.

That's how Klein, a lightly regarded recruit from Colorado, became a Heisman Trophy finalist, and how linebacker Arthur Brown found his way to Kansas State after a time at Miami, and how junior college defensive back Nigel Malone put himself in position to play professionally.

``It sounds like a simple thing,'' Klein said, ``but it's just been amazing how Coach Snyder is always talking about improving, and every team I've been on every single year we've had here has gotten better every year.''

Brown said he appreciated Snyder's leadership on a personal level, away from the field.

``It's molded me as a player and as a person,'' said Brown, who emerged as one of the nation's best linebackers. ``That's invaluable in itself, and I'm thankful for the opportunity.''

It's an opportunity he's given players at Kansas State for more than two decades.

``There's no question, his record speaks for itself,'' senior kicker Anthony Cantele said. ``He's instilled a lot of leadership in this team from the ground up.''

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.