Take a look at Kansas State's recruiting rankings the past few seasons, and you'll notice a significant lack of four and five-star recruits. When Bill Snyder first took the Kansas State job, he shared in an ESPN piece published today that he legitimately thought that that he'd have a shot with all those blue-chip type athletes, but "reality hit home rather quickly," according to Snyder.
That outlook was replaced with an approach that was first unconventional, but over the years has been perfected to uncover gems like Jordy Nelson, who went from walk-on, to scholarship wide receiver, to NFL Pro Bowler and one of the most respected receivers in the game today.
According to the ESPN piece, Snyder's unique recruiting approach centered on putting a priority on the guys who may have gone overlooked by other programs. Then he and his staff vet those recruits through those that know them best, like coaches, teachers, administrators, and that's followed by creating and maintaining relationships with thousands of high school coaches so that they're the first to know where they can find the next overlooked player.
Snyder explains that he has found a way to be successful, all while focusing on recruits that programs pass on due to things like being from a remote town or small school, not attending combines sponsored by recruiting services, lacking the measurables (height / weight / 40 time), and not peaking with their football potential because they play other sports.
Via the ESPN piece:
"It's not all about physical talent, 40 times, bench presses, all those kinds of numbers," Snyder said. "It doesn't meant they're insignificant, because they're not insignificant. But that value system that young people do or do not possess is highly significant to me. You can take guys that might not have that extreme talent, but you see the capacity to develop. Whether they'll invest the time, that's a big thing for us."
So in Snyder's mind, if you can find kids that fit that mold, and do a great job coaching them and developing them, you're on the way to winning games using the Kansas State model that has been so successful with him.
Using that approach will require taking some gambles on kids, and some extra travel to remote areas beyond airports, but if you and your staff are willing to put in the work cultivating relationships with coaches in those small towns, building trust, and investing in developing those kids once they get to campus, Snyder's model has proven that it can help create a special program.
Head over to ESPN to read more on Snyder's unique approach, including more comments from him along with some great testimonials from high school coaches and former players under Snyder who were discovered with this approach.