Conversation with the Coordinator: Dana Dimel

18 Aug

Ask head coach Bill Snyder about the strengths and weaknesses of a unit, and you probably will not get a bulleted list. Maybe because he wants to keep all information close to the vest, maybe because he does not have time to give you a legitimate blow-by-blow of the issues, or maybe because he thinks the specifics are beyond your level of knowledge. Whatever the case, you will more than likely receive a rather vague response.

At Kansas State media day, co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel was more straightforward, and before being called away to take pictures, he talked about the inclusion of more passing in this year’s offense, the return of Tyler Lockett, changing up the rushing attack, Braden Wilson and Travis Tannahill – oh, and those strengths and weaknesses.

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“Our strengths are our versatility and our skill positions, for sure – our quarterback and his leadership and his talents,” Dimel said. “Weaknesses are our lack of depth on the offensive line and our backup quarterback. That’s our two weaknesses that when we go into camp, we’re addressing.”

He feels good about the starting offensive line, youthful as it is, and he is focused on getting positions two deep. If any injuries occur over the course of the season, Dimel wants to make sure the line does not take a step back and hinder the rest of the offense. Pass protection will be key, as the Wildcats hope to have a more versatile offense this season.

“We feel like we can control it better if we can be more diverse in what we do,” Dimel said. “Time of possession, eliminate penalties, eliminate turnovers. If you do those things, the other team doesn’t have the ball very much, and when they do get it, they don’t get it with very good field position, so that was the story of what we did last year.

“Now we’re kind of feeling like if we can get more first downs, they’re going to have the ball even less, so that’s one of our emphases … and we’re going to try to do that by being more diverse with what we do on offense, try to expound on our passing game, basically.”

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Key to that passing game is sophomore Tyler Lockett, who as the only true freshman on the team last season racked up 246 receiving yards and 563 yards in kickoff returns over nine games before going down with an injury.

Lockett, the son of Kansas State receiving legend Kevin and nephew of kick return great Aaron, did not play in the 2012 spring game after tweak the earlier injury in a previous practice. However, coaches say holding him out of that game was merely precautionary and that he is good to go for the season. Having him healthy improves the receiving group significantly.

“It’s a huge boost,” Dimel said. “Our last time that we had Tyler and [fellow receiver] Chris [Harper] was the Oklahoma State game, and we showed our diversity there when we had both those guys at full cylinder, so we’re feeling like if we get both those guys back healthy, we can kind of be that balanced of a team where we ran the ball well and threw the ball well.”

***

Of course, a renewed commitment to a balanced offense – and thus more passing, ideally, does not mean the running game is going away. On the contrary, Kansas State needs more participation on the ground. Quarterback Collin Klein and John Hubert certainly carried the bulk of the load last season, combining for over 2,000 yards rushing. This year Dimel looks for more from some of the other running backs on the roster, such as Angelo Pease, DeMarcus Robinson and Robert Rose.

“We’re not looking to run John any more than what we did last year,” Dimel said. “We’re looking to run John more efficiently than what we did last year, and then we’re looking to run the other backs more than what we did last year. That way it takes stress off of what we do with Collin, so that’s kind of the game plan.”

***

Of course, fullback Braden Wilson figures into the offense as well. Primarily used for blocking, he rarely got the ball, but when he did, people remembered. The 6’4″, 254-pound senior steamrolled opponents and has impressed the coaches with a relentless work ethic. Even Snyder calls him the hardest worker on the team. Beyond that, though, Dimel said Wilson has what it takes to make the game a career.

“He’s very much an NFL prospect because what he does is what NFL teams want to do … and that’s create matchups and angles with what you do by moving him offensively and still be able to play a physical style of football with him,” Dimel said, “and he’s got very, very good hands, and he’s got a ton of toughness and has been around a lot of offense now, so he can translate that to the next level and be a very good player there.”

As for now, Wilson makes the Wildcats tough to prepare for because he is used in a unique way, Dimel said.

“What he brings to the table for us is every week when somebody lines up to play us, they’re turning on the film and they’re saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to come up with a new game plan because we haven’t faced this all year. This is a different style than we’ve faced all year,’” Dimel said. “That’s what he allows us to do.”

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Tight end Travis Tannahill is another offensive option for Kansas State, one who has taken steps forward in the offseason. Dimel half-joked that Tannahill “found” the weight room during the summer, and the results – in addition to no longer being afraid to take his shirt off in public – have been positive.

“It’s helped him because he’s always had a lot of finesse and been a good football player, but now he’s got the physical tools to back it up, so I think he’s going to have a really good year,” Dimel said.

***

The slow and steady, count-it-down offense that inevitably compels Kansas State fans to remind the team each snap of the dwindling play clock – “Three! Two! One!” – is not going anywhere this season. Nevertheless, the coaches expect it to be more versatile. Few specifics have been given by coaches, Klein or center B.J. Finney, but all say that improvement in Klein’s passing has been made. Everything remains to be seen, of course, but when a team can win 10 games with total offense ranked ninth in the league, it is exciting to consider what could happen when that offense gets better.

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