MANHATTAN — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder faces some personnel decisions this week that might not have cropped up in previous years.
Injuries have played a part, forcing the Wildcats to reach deeper into their roster than they might have liked, but so has a new regulation that along with the graduate transfer rule complicates matters for any coach.
Under a new NCAA redshirt rule, players now may participate in four games without forfeiting a year of eligibility, which typically affects true freshmen the most.
Such is the case for K-State, which currently has three true freshmen — defensive back Lance Robinson and wide receivers Malik Knowles and Phillips Brooks — sitting on three games with two remaining.
Complicating matters for Snyder is the fact that the Wildcats, who entertain Texas Tech for this Saturday's 2:30 p.m. senior day home finale, have a 4-6 record (2-5 Big 12) and need two more victories to become bowl eligible.
"We're well aware of where they stand in regards to the new redshirt rule, and if we didn't have that rule it would be some other rule that we would have to be very understanding of," Snyder said Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "Would we play those guys beyond the fourth ballgame?
"If it's a necessity, then we probably would, yes."
Which begs the larger question of whether Snyder has adjusted his thinking on redshirts in general. His past reasoning was the advantage of having a fifth-year player over a true freshman on the field in most cases.
It turns out that hasn't changed much.
"I say that for two reasons," Snyder said. "It's really based on what's best for a young guy (and) No. 1, you become a better player then.
"Number two, you see an awful lot of young people that get away from college without graduation, and it gives them an opportunity to definitely graduate and while they're still on scholarship initiate work towards a master's degree or second major, whatever the case may be. That's certainly, I think, a major benefit for them."
The danger, for course, is that a player who redshirted as a freshman could earn a degree and then decide to go elsewhere for his fifth year under the graduate rule without having to sit out a year.
"As far as the senior transfer rule, our thoughts are contrary to protecting yourself in that way," Snyder said. "But by the same token if a young guy is unhappy and you're not the right place for him, then he's probably not going to do due diligence to your program anyway and is probably better off being someplace else."
K-State actually benefitted from the graduate transfer rule this year with junior defensive tackle Jordan Mittie, who has started seven games, recording 16 tackles with four for loss, including a pair of sacks. Mittie, son of K-State women's basketball coach Jeff Mittie, graduated from Texas State and currently is pursuing a MBA.
Back to the new redshirt rule, Oklahoma State was burned by it earlier this season when senior receiver Jalen McCleskey played in just four games and decided to sit the rest of the season in order to transfer. At the time he was second on the team with 15 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns, and he ranked sixth all time at OSU with 167 career catches and ninth in receiving touchdowns with 17.
For K-State, Robinson is the most likely candidate to surpass the four-game limit after making his first career start last week in a secondary decimated by injuries. He recorded four tackles and broke up a pass in the Wildcats' 21-17 victory over Kansas.
"He played well," Snyder said of Robinson, a 5-foot-9, 184-pounder from New Orleans. "I was pleased with what he did.
"Not without mistakes, but overall I thought he played well, played aggressively, made some tackles. (He) probably tackled better than might have been anticipated for not getting on the field very much."
Snyder said last week that Knowles was No. 1 on the depth chart at a wide receiver spot, but that an injury might keep him out. He did not play against the Jayhawks.
For the first time this season, no K-State players were made available to the media.