Tag Archives: Nigel Malone Kansas State

Conversation with the Coordinator: Tom Hayes

19 Aug

Kansas State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes wants to make the defense better, but he also appreciates the fact that the Wildcats have the luxury of a solid foundation from last season.

“You don’t win 10 games unless the pluses outweigh the minuses,” Hayes said during Kansas State’s football media day. “[Head coach Bill Snyder] doesn’t want to jump in there and interfere with what we did well. He just wants us to improve on the things that we need to improve on, and we’re working as a defensive staff every single day and night on that very thing.”

Like Snyder, Hayes believes in the power of fundamentals more than elaborate schemes. Spot-on implementation of a simple plan is better than sub-par effecting of a more complex one.

“It’s about getting your players in the right place … giving them a chance to make plays, and having just enough defense,” Hayes said. “You can go crazy with putting in all kinds of different calls, but you might not execute as well, and so we’ll put in just enough, but we won’t do so much that it screw our guys up.”

Still, the defense has much to accomplish before the season begins, and Hayes talked about who could be where come Sept. 1.

***

The defensive line is projected to consist entirely of seniors, including Meshak Williams and Adam Davis at the defensive end spots, but the player with the most experience is Vai Lutui. As the one with the most time on the field, he is charged with taking a leadership role this season. That means filling the sizable shoes left by defensive tackle Ray Kibble, whom Hayes described as a guy his teammates could count on, who was there every day, every play.

While taking over for Kibble is no small assignment, Hayes is not hesitant to tell Lutui he  needs to be what Kibble was last season.

“I would go there for sure,” Hayes said. “That’s not a problem to me. He’s the returning starter. Why shouldn’t he [have the same impact Ray had]? He played pretty well last year, but he can play a whole lot better.”

Other candidates for the interior defensive line include John Sua, Javonta Boyd, Wesley Hollingshed and two new players coming from community colleges.

“It’s going to be competitive, and once again it’s a work in progress,” Hayes said. “It’s just going to take an entire training camp to figure it out.”

***

The secondary returns cornerback Nigel Malone and free safety Ty Zimmerman, and cornerback Allen Chapman and strong safety Thomas Ferguson are expected to fill the roles left by David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman. The Wildcats have considerable depth at safety, including Kent Gainous, Randall Evans, Jarard Milo and Dante Barnett.

A starter last season, Malone nabbed seven interceptions, the most in the Big 12, but the defensive coordinator believes Malone is capable of much more.

“I think it’s given him a lot of confidence, and it should,” Hayes said. “He played good, and he played against a lot of good receivers. I expect him to do the same thing, but I expect him to be a lot better in all areas. He needs to continue to do what he’s doing, taking the ball away for us, but he needs to play the run better, he needs to play the pass better, he needs to work on his technique. There’s a lot of things he can do to get better.”

Zimmerman is a two-year starter, a two-time All-Big 12 selection and a team captain this season. Hayes said the former quarterback’s experience has helped him on the other side of the ball.

“Sometimes I think he’s knows what’s going to happen before they snap the ball because he’s played over there on that side,” Hayes said. “He understands splits and he understands check systems, he just has a feel for what’s going on. It’s something that I can’t really coach that in some cases, so I’m glad we’ve got him.”

***

Displayed on the I-70 billboard along with quarterback Collin Klein, Arthur Brown is the heart and soul of the defense. A team captain this season and All-America selection last year, the middle linebacker is joined by fellow returning starter Tre Walker and converted quarterback Justin Tuggle. While Brown often praises others for leadership, Hayes said the captain has taken a more vocal role even though it is not something that necessarily comes naturally to him.

“He’s accepted that role, the fact that he’s going to have to open up a little bit,” Hayes said. “I’ve been on his case, since I got here, about opening up more during the play or prior to the play, making calls, being vocal with our defensive team during the game. And I think he’s taken that on this year, this spring certainly, and then on into fall camp. I expect him to keep doing it. That’s not what he really wants to do. He just wants to shut up and play. That’s what he wants to do. It’s just kind of who he is. But he’s a fabulous kid. He really is.”

***

In 2011 Kansas State ranked fifth in total defense, fifth in scoring defense, sixth in pass defense and fourth in rushing defense. Although opponents outgained the Wildcats by an average of over 100 yards during Big 12 games last season, Kansas State’s fundamental soundness carried it through stressful late-game situations. Out of their 10 wins, eight came by a touchdown or less.

“I assure you, when you have success like that, at the end of games … the bottom line is that gives your team confidence,” Hayes said. “That’s just the way it is. Take from that, from 2011, not live by it, not count on it happening, but that gives your team confidence.”

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Preview: KSU vs. Texas A&M

12 Nov

Today two Big 12 teams on 2-game losing streaks meet at Bill Snyder Family Stadium to try and get their seasons back on track.

After seven straight wins, the Wildcats have been through the crucible with perhaps two of the more difficult back-to-back opponents in college football – Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The first was an ugly blowout at home, the second was as close as they come in Stillwater. Texas A&M’s last two losses came against Oklahoma and Missouri – the latter in overtime.

Athlon Sports picked the Wildcats (7-2) to finish 8th in the Big 12. It picked Texas A&M (5-4) to finish 2nd.

When you look at these teams from a national perspective, both have numerically some of the absolute worst pass defenses in the country. Of course, the Aggies are one of those pass-happy teams that the Wildcats have faced so often recently. The Wildcats took huge strides toward a legitimate passing game last weekend, but they have quite a way to go. In addition, there have been rumors (none confirmed) that freshman wide receiver Tyler Lockett – who amassed 315 all-purpose yards for KSU against OSU – might be injured and therefore out for this game and possibly more.

Both teams are much better equipped when it comes to rushing offense and rushing defense, though Kansas State probably has a slight edge in both. Quarterback Collin Klein will take it upon himself to make sure of that.

Bottom line, the Wildcats have learned quite a bit in the past two weeks. Here’s what they need to do to win today.

  • Keep OSU’s offense off the field. Cornerback Nigel Malone said the secondary is improving, even if high-octane offenses have obscured that development with their crazy numbers. Still, if time of possession is on the Wildcats’ side, it would be helpful – especially since Texas A&M has a more balanced offense than some of these other Big 12 teams. That said, with the way the Wildcats have struggled against the pass, the Aggies may pass more than usual.
  • Hold onto the football. The Wildcats have been pretty good about limiting turnovers this season, but against Oklahoma State they had several. This cannot happen. It’s a simple, fundamental thing, but you cannot ignore it.
  • Be tricky. Some of KSU’s biggest gains happened when the Wildcats ran misdirections for Lockett. I don’t know if the team has other players it is comfortable running that with or not, but it would definitely be a benefit to get the Aggies off balance by doing something unexpected.

The Story of 24

1 Nov

Nigel Malone got the news as he drove across the Bay Bridge, heading away from Oakland to a friend’s house over the summer. Dave Henderson, whom Malone had played with at City College of San Francisco, had been shot in the head. All sorts of things ran though Malone’s mind. One in particular sticks with him.

“That could have been me,” Malone said. “I could have been at that place with him. He was a good friend of mine. I had planned on seeing him.”

From an early age, dreams of football motivated Malone to stay on a certain path. When he lived in Oakland and commuted daily to practice at City College of San Francisco, there were plenty of distractions available, but Malone had understood for years that to be successful in football, those had to be avoided.

Henderson encountered those distractions as well, and though he had been trying to clean up his act, all that he was involved in eventually caught up to him.

“He was living fast, and if you live by that gun, you’re going to die by it,” Malone said, “and unfortunately it got him.”

After being shot, Henderson remained on life support for a week and died the day Malone began summer classes at Kansas State. He had turned 21 years old in January.

“There’s somebody who had all the talent in the world,” Malone said. “You can definitely go look up his name – Dave Henderson. He was the best running back in San Francisco history. Broke all O.J. Simpson’s rushing records, one of the best athletes to come out of San Francisco. Somebody who I had sweated it out with back at City, going through all that stuff.”

“It’s just unfortunate that he never got the opportunities that I have.”

Malone could not visit Henderson in the hospital because he had to leave for Manhattan, but coach Bill Snyder’s emphasis on dedicating each game to someone brought an opportunity for Malone to pay tribute to his friend.

The cornerback – now with six interceptions, the second-highest total in the nation – had been wearing 21 throughout spring ball, but after talking to Snyder, he decided to change it to 24, the number worn by Henderson.

What happened to his friend is just another reason that Malone finds it amazing that he is where he is.

“It’s just kind of crazy how God works, putting me in the position that I am now,” Malone said. “I’m really just blessed and I’m thankful I’m in this position.”

Kansas State vs. Texas Tech: The Breakdown

16 Oct

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

Is it really fair to keep calling the Wildcats underdogs? Week after week the line favors the other team, and week after week Kansas State finds a way to triumph. It makes many mistakes, it misses opportunities here and there, but the coaches and players overcome all that. The result? The team’s first 6-0 season since 2000, when many of the college juniors – like myself – on this year’s team were just 10 years old.

On Saturday, the Wildcats took on the Red Raiders in Lubbock. They had not won there since 1997. They hadn’t beat Texas Tech in the last five seasons. But yesterday, Kansas State did exactly that, 41-34. The team won the game and bowl eligibility even though it gave up 30 points  – only the second time that has happened in a conference road game since 1989.

During his on-field interview at the conclusion of the game, coach Bill Snyder lamented the inconsistencies of the team across the board and pointed out times the Wildcats could have put away the ball game but did not. At the end, however, he did concede this:

“A lot of it was good.”

For example, Nigel Malone’s pick-six to start the game – not the worst way in the world to grab some momentum and put a hostile crowd on its heels. Of course, two more interceptions – one by Tysyn Hartman, another by David Garrett – boosted this defense’s credentials even more. On special teams – long an emphasis of Snyder squads – the Wildcats had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Tyler Lockett, son of his school’s all-time leading receiver Kevin Lockett. (For more on Tyler, check out my AP article on him.) Oh, and Raphael Guidry blocked not one, but two field goal attempts by the Red Raiders. Offensively, there weren’t massive fireworks, but the Wildcats did score 41 points while amassing just 339 yards of offense … as opposed to Texas Tech’s 461 passing yards and 580 total yards.

Like Snyder said, though, it was not a perfect performance by any measure. The coach values discipline, and the Wildcats committed 10 penalties for 78 yards, including multiple false starts. He also wants the team to preserve a “bend but don’t break” mentality and avoid giving up the big plays that will really sink the ship. While it could be argued the Wildcats did ultimately accomplish that, the secondary got torched on several huge pass plays – including the 40-yard strike that got the Red Raiders their first six points – and the defense allowed nearly 600 yards of offense. Also, kicker Anthony Cantele missed on the extra point attempt that followed Lockett’s touchdown, and he couldn’t convert on a 31-yard field goal attempt with under five minutes to play.

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

With those pros and cons listed, here are some quick thoughts and final takeaways:

  • Can we go ahead and recognize what a talented quarterback Collin Klein is? Completing 12 of 18 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown is something that will catch Heisman voters’ attention, by any means, but stats mean a heck of a lot less than wins do. For example, Texas Tech’s Seth Doege connected on 43 of 63 passes for 461 yards, but he had 3 interceptions, and the Red Raiders lost. Plus, with Klein’s 110 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, he has numerically moved into the same conversation as Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson, the only other two Kansas State quarterback to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Klein now has 1,002.
  • Texas Tech had 10 receivers who caught a pass of 10 or more yards. Four of those caught one for more than 15 yards. Two of those caught one for 40 or more yards. Obviously, defenses will give up a big play now and then, and those big plays are much more likely to be pass plays than run plays. But giving up 461 yards through the air is not something the Wildcats can afford to do long term. Shoring up the secondary will be key to beating teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, whom Kansas State faces in back to back weeks on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
  • Of course, since the AP now has Kansas State ranked No. 12 in the nation, that whole “underdog” persona might be difficult to hold on to, at least next week when the Wildcats face the poor, hapless Jayhawks. Obviously, the team should not overlook anyone, but if there was any team Kansas State could overlook and get away with it … Wait a minute, remember Eastern Kentucky? Better not to underestimate anyone.

KSU players recognized on midseason All-Big 12 team

14 Oct

I don’t know how much longer the Wildcats will be able to claim underdog status. Phil Steele released his lists of midseason All-Americans and All-Big honorees, and eight Kansas State names sit among them.

Steele put linebacker Arthur Brown as a first-team All-American. To anyone who has seen him play, this is no surprise whatsoever. He’s 7th in the Big 12 with 38 tackles that include several sacks and tackles for loss. Numbers really do not explain what he brings to this team, though. He gets to the football like he’s magnetically drawn to it. He puts the kind of hard, jarring hits on players that make you happy that you decided to pursue a professional other than football.

Nosetackle Ray Kibble earned third-team All-America recognition. The way the defensive line has been playing, this is very much justified. The Kansas State defense ranks 16th in the nation and is particularly strong against the run. Plus, the Wildcats allow opponents to convert on third down only 30 percent of the time. Kibble has had much to do with that. Coach Bill Snyder said  he is really coming into his own as a leader as well. Fellow defensive tackle Vai Lutui received a spot on the All-Big 12 third team. This is his first season at a D-I college, as he transferred to Kansas State after helping lead Mt. San Antonio Community College to a 13-0 record in 2010.

Defensive end Jordan Voelker saw time in five games last season, a walk-on after transferring from Butler Community College. Steele named him to the second-team All-Big 12. Listed there with him is cornerback Nigel Malone, who apparently resembles players on many different teams because opposing quarterbacks keep throwing him the ball.

As part of Kansas State’s wonderfully revamped linebacking corps, 2010 Freshman All-American Tre Walker made third-team All-American. An enthusiastic vocal leader for the team, he’s one of the younger guys with D-I experience on the roster. Cornerback David Garrett is another passionate player Steele named as third-team Big 12. Wide receiver Chris Harper said Garrett epitomizes the attitude of this team: he may be small, be he’s so tough.

Running back John Hubert is the lone offensive player for Kansas State on this list, as a third-team All-Big 12 player. Averaging nearly 100 yards per game on a team that has a quarterback who averages nearly 100 rushing yards per game is pretty impressive. People worried about how the running game would fare after Daniel Thomas moved on to the NFL. It’s turned out pretty well so far.

 

 

Kansas State defense looks to redefine its reputation

14 Sep

After finishing the 2010 season ranked as one of the worst defenses in the country, Kansas State currently sits in the No. 1 spot.

Of course, the team has only played one game, but with its next matchup coming against a Kent State team that managed only 19 points between its first two contests, it looks like Saturday will be a great opportunity for the Wildcats to continue what they have started. In its season opener against Eastern Kentucky, the Kansas State defense allowed only 129 yards of total offense. The players, however, don’t want to dwell on that.

“One game doesn’t define the whole season, so we’re really looking on building on that, keeping up the things we did well and improving on the things we did bad,” said defensive end Jordan Voelker, who had two sacks against Eastern Kentucky.

While the Wildcats’ defense looked fantastic in its debut, keeping the Colonels out of the end zone the entire game except when they started a drive on Kansas State’s one-yard line, Voelker said it is important for them to make corrections from that game and improve their tackling because the team will only face tougher opponents as the season wears on.

“Consistency is something Coach Snyder preaches about all the time,” said defensive back Tysyn Hartman. “We can’t have roller-coaster performances where we play great one game, terrible the next. I feel like that’s something we did last year, and we feel like we’re a better defense than last year, so we’ve got to prove that.”

And after a few games against increasingly talented opponents, maybe it will be proven.

“If we put a few good games together, I think people are going to start recognizing that K-State defenses are maybe somewhat back, and hopefully we’ve changed the perception of being one of the bottom defenses,” Voelker said.

Players say the early bye week – a quirk in the schedule, as head coach Bill Snyder referred to it – helped them come back to earth, so to speak, after their great performance in the opening game.

“It brought us down off our high a little bit maybe,” Voelker said, “and we realized that we still have a lot of things to accomplish and we’re not – statistically we’re the number one defense in the nation, but we don’t see ourselves as the number one defense in the nation with the mistakes we made. There’s always those things that we have to improve on, just the small things we’ve got to do to keep getting there.”

Cornerback Nigel Malone said the intensity of the defense has not faded since the win and that the team should be able to maintain it going into the Kent State game and the games after that. While the Wildcats want to be aggressive and tenacious, they also want people to tell that they are enjoying playing the game.

Voelker said that as the Wildcats watch tape of the Alabama-Kent State game, they were impressed by the Alabama defense and wanted to take on a similar look as far as effort and enthusiasm.

“We really like the way that Alabama was flying to the ball,” Voelker said. “That’s the image we want to try to put off, is a defense like that just looks like they’re enjoying playing football and enjoying playing with each other and having a good time and making plays while you’re doing it.”