You could glean a couple of basic things from Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day at Kansas State, which represented the small — and only — glimpse behind the Wildcats’ curtain before the season opener against Stephen F. Austin on Aug. 30.
First, the Wildcats love their fans. No surprise there.
“Feel free to come up, ask us questions, get us to sign autographs,” senior defensive end and captain Ryan Mueller told the crowd, a big smile spreading across his face. “Take advantage of it. Like coach Snyder always says ... take advantage of every opportunity.”
The second is that K-State seems to have made it through the first two weeks of practice relatively unscathed. Most of the projected starters were on the field and fully participating — only Mueller, safety Dylan Schellenberg and offensive tackle Boston Stiverson were noticeably held out of team activities, though Mueller did participate in individual drills and is the only returning full-time starter of the three.
There are some position battles that seem to be brewing. Coaches and players did not do interviews after the one-hour practice window, which was followed by speeches from Snyder, eight team captains and an autograph session for the estimated 3,000 fans.
At running back, sophomore Eric Jones appeared to get most of the reps with the first team, with DeMarcus Robinson as his backup.
On the offensive line, left tackle Cody Whitehair and center B.J. Finney were returning starters in their usual spots, surrounded by Drew Liddle and Will Ash at guard. Tight end Zach Trujillo worked with the first team, while receivers Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton and Deante Burton were the main targets for quarterback Jake Waters in seven-on-seven drills, with Kody Cook also getting a look.
Lockett, an All-Big 12 pick last season, was especially impressive in drills and was tough to cover for most of the practice on downfield routes. He and Morgan Burns appeared to be the Wildcats’ kickoff-return tandem during the special-teams portion of practice.
With no Mueller on defense, junior Marquel Bryant and sophomore Jordan Willis got first-team reps, while returning starter Travis Britz and redshirt freshman Will Geary were at defensive tackle.
At linebacker, Jonathan Truman took most of the reps with Charmeachealle Moore and Dakorey Johnson working beside him.
All three heralded junior-college transfers — defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales, linebacker D’Vonta Derricott and defensive back Danzel McDaniel — were in uniform, though McDaniel was the only one who seems to be in contention for a starting spot at this point.
Truman was perhaps the most eloquent of the eight players who spoke after practice and, like Mueller, quoted Snyder.
“Coach Snyder talks all the time about surrounding yourself with people that genuinely care,” Truman said. “And when we come out on Saturdays I’m proud to say we surround ourselves with a whole stadium of people who genuinely care.”