Tag Archives: Tre Walker Kansas State

Big 12 Preview: Kansas State

31 Aug

As nice a person as he is, quarterback Collin Klein has no problem showing ferocity in his leadership on the football field, and that attitude will continue to permeate the team this season. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Overview: In 2011 the Wildcats’ total offense ranked ninth in the league, their defense fifth. Despite the numbers, and despite being picked to finish eighth in the league, Kansas State won 10 games. This year, I’ve seen the Wildcats picked to finish fifth or sixth in the Big 12. Maybe it is just because I attend Kansas State, but I think those predictions are much too safe.

Offense: The biggest offensive weapon for the Wildcats is quarterback Collin Klein, who scored 27 rushing touchdowns and 13 passing touchdowns in 2011. Those numbers moved him into the company of Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton, Tim Tebow and Eric Crouch as one of just four college players to collect at least 20 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing scores in a single season. 85 percent of Kansas State touchdowns in 2011 included Klein.

In addition to him, the Wildcats return talented receivers in Chris Harper, Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett. Running back John Hubert is also back, along with center B.J. Finney. The sophomore center will be expected to take a leadership role on the line, where Kansas State is projected to start a pair of freshmen.

Coaches have said the Wildcats’ offense will be more versatile this season, using the passing game more effectively to keep opposing defenses off-balance. Klein added a caveat to that, however: whatever allows the team to win is what Kansas State will do.

Defense: The return of linebacker Arthur Brown is monstrous. He led the Wildcats with 101 tackles last season and is the heart and soul of the defense. He will defer that title, of course, if you ask him, which just makes him that much more of a leader for this unit. Tre Walker should also make an impact at the position. Coming back in the secondary are Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman, but the Wildcats will have to replace last season’s starters Tysyn Hartman and David Garrett. The defensive line boasts four seniors in tackles Vai Lutui and John Sua and ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis.

This season the defense is under the direction of Tom Hayes, who was promoted to coordinator after coaching the secondary last season.

Special teams: Kansas State’s most under-appreciated unit is in good hands again this season. Placekicker Anthony Cantele and punter Ryan Doerr are both seniors. Lockett, though a sophomore, took two kickoff returns all the way last season, and Thompson, a junior, generally gets good yardage on his punt returns as well. Longsnapper Marcus Heit played in 12 games last season and was perfect on 128 snaps, continuing the tradition of excellence set by his predecessor Corey Adams, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys last summer.

Schedule: With a road game at Oklahoma slated as their Big 12 debut, the Wildcats may not go undefeated as long as they did last season. However, one way or another they will have two weeks before facing Kansas for their conference home opener. On Oct. 13 and 20 Kansas State has back-to-back road games against Iowa State and West Virginia, and following are home games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats go to Texas for contests with TCU and Baylor, and then they finish up with Texas at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Projection: In 2011 I predicted eight wins for the Wildcats, and everyone said I was much too optimistic. I never saw any publication project even that number, and as it turns out, Kansas State and its 10-win season made even my guess look too conservative.

This season, I’ve projected a range of wins for each team in the league. For the Wildcats, my range would be eight to 10. Officially, I say 10. The Big 12 has some of the country’s best teams – six of them, if you believe preseason polls – so two losses would still be an extremely impressive year.

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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.

 

 

Linebacker Preview

29 Aug

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but this year’s crop of linebackers has a chance to one of those that people remember.

First off, there is Arthur Brown, the Wichita native and transfer from the University of Miami (where the Wildcats will face the Hurricanes on Sept. 24, by the way). A junior now, he redshirted with Kansas State last season, and those in the program have been impressed by his work ethic and leadership. Fans expect him to make a big impact quickly, and the positive accounts from Brown’s teammates – who voted him a team captain this season – and coaches make that seem like a very real possibility. Whether or not he has that impact will be integral to how quickly the Wildcats can take their defense from a weakness to a strength.

Last season, Tre Walker gave the linebacker group a big boost as a freshman. Head coach Bill Snyder prefers to redshirt incoming players (his rationale is that they’ll probably be better contributors in their fifth year than in their first year) but could not in good conscience keep Walker, who would play in all 13 games, off the field. It was simple: he made the team better. Numerically, he made the Wildcats better to the tune of 47 tackles, a sack and an interception. Keep in mind, he only started two of the 13 games in which he played. Now, with a year of game experience under his belt, Walker is expected to build on his successes of last season. Ideally, playing alongside someone like Brown should help him do that to an even greater degree.

Emmanuel Lamur began his college career at Independence Community College, but in the last two seasons he has been a key contributor for the Wildcats. Fans will likely remember his 2009 season more vividly than his 2010 season. In 2009, he played safety and turned in a team-high 68 tackles … and blocked an extra point in Arrowhead Stadium to give the Wildcats a wild one-point win over the Iowa State Cyclones. Last season, he played both safety and linebacker, and this season, it seems he will be primarily a linebacker. A two-time team captain, Lamur’s quickness and length should bolster this unit in no small way.

In 2010, Alex Hrebec and Blake Slaughter, now a senior and junior, respectively, earned significant playing time at the linebacker spots. Hrebec was third on the team in tackles with 77 even though he missed two games because of injury, his K-State bio notes. Slaughter played in all the 2010 games save for one. This year, however, Hrebec and Slaughter will likely be relegated to backups. That these two will be No. 2s should be perceived as a great sign for the Wildcats. This could be one of the deepest positions on the team, and hopefully it will be the one to lead the defense to a better reputation, leaving last year’s sad numbers (11th in the Big 12 in total defense) in the dust.