One need not look further than the 2009 BCS National Title Championship pitting Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners vs. Urban Meyer's Florida Gators in order to catch a glimpse of Bill Snyder's impact on two of college football's top coaches.
Whether you're talking about Snyder the program-builder, or Snyder the offensive guru whose influence on the spread-option offense is well-documented -- quite simply, he's changed the game. The good news is, Snyder's imprint will be long-lasting on the players he mentored that are now tearing it up in the league (like NFL stars Darren Sproles and Terence Newman), as well as the many coaches he helped mold over the years. The bad news is, in the case of his former assistants, Snyder may be lining up his team next to yours at the onset of the 2009 season, as K-State recently announced Snyder's return to the program he built from basement dwellers in the late 80s to national title contenders and 11 straight bowl appearances in the 90s and 2000s.
Let's take a look at Snyder's coaching tree and where Stoops and Meyer come into the picture, and what Snyder's comeback means to the Big 12's balance of power.
Condensed Version of Bill Snyder's Coaching Tree for 2008
Bob Stoops takes Snyder's Blueprint to OU
In terms of architecting a winning football program, Stoops owes a lot of his tricks of the trade to the seven years he spent working on the sidelines under Snyder at K-State. But the Stoops and Snyder connection goes much further back than their time together in the "Little Apple", Manhattan, Kansas. Stoops played under Hayden Fry at the University of Iowa in the early 80s, where Snyder served as Fry's right-hand man on the offensive side of the ball. After his playing days, Stoops served as a grad assistant at Iowa before a one year stint on Kent State's staff. When Snyder took the job at Kansas State prior to the 1989 season, he brought in Bob as a defensive back coach. Stoops was later promoted to Co-Defensive Coordinator (Jim Leavitt was the other Co-Defensive Coordinator), and played a pivotal role in what many consider the greatest college turnaround ever at Kansas State in the early 90's. He was the defensive mastermind and fiery presence on the sideline complimenting Snyder's masterful game planning on the offensive end.
Stoops became a hot name in coaching circles and was brought to Florida to run Steve Spurrier's defense. After a national title at Florida, Stoops was offered the top job at OU, where he leaned heavily on Snyder's staff at K-State and brought along three of K-State's top assistants (Bob's brother Mike Stoops, Mark Mangino, and Brent Venables). Stoops, with his gang of Snyder-trained assistants, brought OU back to national prominence in a mere 2 years, winning it all in 2000.
When you consider Bob Stoops track record at OU, Mark Mangino's at Kansas, Mike Stoops at Arizona, and Jim Leavitt's at South Florida -- it's easy to see how Snyder has gained a reputation as a coach who grooms his assistants for future success. It's also obvious why the American Football Coaches Association went to Snyder when they needed the person most qualified to write a chapter in the Football Coaching Bible entitled "Building and Sustaining a Division I Program".
However, Snyder's more than just a CEO who can manage a program, his area of expertise is really in offensive strategy and the play of the quarterback - which brings us to one more connection to the OU program that deserves mentioning from a historical perspective. That is the lineage of recent Heisman winners. Snyder's prized pupil at Iowa was Chuck Long, who is credited with grooming OUs Jason White and also recruiting Sam Bradford, prior to Long leaving for a head coaching gig at San Diego State. Under Snyder's watchful eye and steady hand, Long won the the Davey O'Brien award as the nation's top signal caller and finishing runner-up in the 1985 Heisman to Bo Jackson. (for the coaching gurus out there, check out Snyder's chapter in the Offensive Football Strategies text where he describes a few key points on his philosophy of grooming a QB).
Urban Meyer takes a page out of Snyder's playbook in developing his Spread Option offense
Urban Meyer's highly acclaimed spread option offense is a variant that was largely inspired by Snyder's offense, with particular emphasis on the usage of a dual-threat quarterback in the running game. If Rich Rodriguez is the father of the spread option offense, Bill Snyder is the godfather. (Interestingly, both Snyder and Rodriquez separately developed their offensive schemes in the early 90s and deserve credit for one of the most exciting offenses to hit the college game.)
The beauty lies in the simplicity, and a key innovation from Snyder was the read play off the counter. This is how it works: the offense would pull the guard and tackle and let the defensive end rush in. Prior to handoff, the quarterback would read the defensive end to see if the end is chasing the running back, at which point the quarterback decides to keep it or hand off.
Here is an excerpt from SI's Tim Layden, who has a great article on the resurgence of the single wing formation and it's impact on the spread option offense (click here for the full article):
While Meyer and Rodriguez would eventually become confidants, Meyer's most direct inspiration for his ground game came from Kansas State, where coach Bill Snyder had made a direct-snap running back out of quarterback Michael Bishop and contended for the 1998 national title. "I went out to visit Kansas State and saw what they were doing with the quarterback, and I came away from there amazed," says Meyer. "That stuff really impacted me."
Meyer would take ideas from Snyder and morph them into his own implementation of the spread option, at Bowling Green, then Utah, and finally Florida. If studying offenses were offered as degree, Urban Meyer would have graduated with distinction from Snyder's Coaching U.
There is no denying the resemblance of Tim Tebow's offense compared with the Michael Bishop-led offense of K-State when looking back at tapes of the 1998 K-State season. When comparing the two on the stat sheet, the pass vs. run breakdown is strikingly similar.
Michael Bishop (1998 Season)
- Passing Yards: 2,844
- Passing TDs: 23
- Rushing Yards: 748
- Rushing TDs: 14
- Regular Season Record: 11-1
- Heisman Runner-Up
- Davey O'Brien Winner
- Consensus All-American
Tim Tebow (2008 Season)
- Passing Yards: 2,515
- Passing TDs: 28
- Rushing Yards: 564
- Rushing TDs: 12
- Regular Season Record: 12-1
- Heisman Finalist (and previous winner)
- Maxwell Award Winner (both 2007 and 2008)
- Dave O'Brien Winner in 2007
- Consensus All-American in 2007
With Snyder's return to the sidelines, the question that begs to be answered is: Can K-State once again help the Big 12 North re-balance the power that for the past few years has been heavily slanted towards the Big 12 South?
If the staff he is assembling is any indication, it doesn't look like Snyder is coming back with anything less than conference title expectations and getting the program back in BCS bowl game contention year in and year out. One of Snyder's new top assistants is Andy Ludwig, who took the K-State offensive coordinator job prior to the bowl games but stayed on to lead the Utah Utes offense over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, helping to ensure a perfect season for Utah. "He's a Hall of Fame Coach," said Ludwig in regards to Snyder. "To work with him was the biggest draw for me."
What's yet to be seen is the recruiting class Snyder can pull together this late in the recruiting season.
But for now, with the start of the 2009 season still miles away, all Snyder can do is pause for an evening and turn on the big screen for the BCS title game. What he'll be watching will be none other than Bob Stoops, the head coach from Oklahoma who challenged his own offense in practice for years as his Defense Coordinator, taking on Urban Meyer from Florida, who travelled to Manhattan, Kansas years ago to learn that same offense Stoops was defending against in practice.
By the Numbers
136 and 9th
# of career coaching wins and rank among active D1 coaches
# of BCS conferences with at least one head coach from Snyder's Coaching Tree (Big 12, Pac 10, Big 10, Big East)
# of bowl appearances at Kansas State
# of active D1 coaches whose team plays in the stadium named after him (Bill Snyder Family Stadium)