Tag Archives: Tyler Lockett 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.

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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.

***

“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.”

***

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.”

***

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.

Learning from Locketts

28 Oct

Kevin Lockett always said he did not want to coach. He just wanted to watch his kid play like any other parent does. Eventually, when Tyler was about 14 years old, he asked his dad for more participation in his development as a football player, and Kevin obliged.

Even in a one-on-one coaching capacity, though, the instincts of a father and a coach are different and sometimes make for a tricky combination.

“That’s sort of a difficult balance because at many times, the athlete side of me comes out more than the father side of me, and the athlete side is really pushing me up to continue to strive forward, to continue to make greater leaps and bounds,” Kevin said, “and so at times I think my wife does a really good job of helping me balance that, and reminding me that I am a father and many times I have to just back off and really just encourage him in what he does.”

Apparently Kevin found that balance and Tyler received the instruction well, because just a few short years later, and the son of Kansas State’s all-time leading receiver is getting game time at wide receiver as a freshman and riding a two-game streak of kick returns for touchdowns.

What seems so funny in retrospect is that when the Locketts first began the process of signing Tyler up at Kansas State, they thought he would not see the field in his first season.

“After our conversations with Coach Snyder, we wanted Tyler to redshirt, and I think Tyler wanted to redshirt,” Kevin said. “And I think we really relied on Coach Snyder’s experience in football, and Coach Snyder came back to us and said, ‘Even though most freshman will redshirt, we really think it’s best for Tyler and for our team that he not redshirt.’

The Locketts trusted Snyder, who has been in the business for close to half a century. The decision to play Tyler as a freshman is just one more example of why Bill Snyder is again a candidate for Coach of the Year.

While Tyler has plenty of feedback from the Kansas State coaches now, he still talks to his dad on a regular basis. When he listens to his son’s report from each day’s practice, Kevin again strives to find the balance between coach and father.

“Sometimes I can tell that he just wants me to listen, and sometimes he wants me to provide some advice on ways that he can handle that,” Kevin said. “I try to balance that by providing him encouragement, sometimes providing him advice, and then at times when I see him practice, or if I’m ever up there and I’m able to see some of the film of what he’s doing, then at times I’ll just slip him little notes or little reminders of things that we worked on throughout the summer for him to make sure he’s paying attention to as he goes into the next practice or into the next game.”

Tyler’s equally renowned uncle, Aaron, who is second all-time at Kansas State in punt return yardage and fourth all-time in receiving yards, walks the same thin line when it comes to advice. He has talked to his nephew about how the ball flies, how a returner should position himself, ball security and similar aspects, but he feels like many of the essentials cannot be taught.

“I think for the most part, his natural instincts are something you can’t teach, where to go or how fast to run,” Aaron said. “I think it’s just confidence. You’re a one-man show back there. And what I mean by that is it’s all on you to catch it, it’s all on you to get to where your blocks are set up, and then it becomes a team game, but initially you have to do your part. I think it’s just a no-fear attitude that you just have, and he’s got it in him.”

In addition to the benefit of having acquired football knowledge from his father and uncle over his whole life, Tyler has also been blessed with a combination of their physiques.

“I think he’s built like me,” Kevin said. “I think he’s a little bit ahead of me in regards to where I was physically in terms of size and stature at his age, but I think he has route running ability, his knowledge of the game, always understanding what defense are trying to do to him, and I think the way he catches the ball, he does a really good job of catching the ball with his hands.

“I also see a lot of traits of my brother,” he continued. “He runs more like my brother, his punt return skills obviously come from my brother, and so I think he’s really a hybrid of myself and my brother, and I think he got the best of both of us, which is why as a parent and as an alumnus of K-State football, I expect and hope for him to do more than I was able to do as well as my brother.”

Kansas State’s Midterm Evaluation

19 Oct

It’s already past the midpoint of October, and just like that, the Wildcats are 6-0 and bowl eligible. Here’s a look at what they’ve done so far and what they’re going to need to do moving forward.

Mentality The team has really embraced this underdog persona. They might be favored in a few games, but both cornerback Nigel Malone and defensive end Jordan Voelker said the Wildcats always have a chip on their shoulder, regardless of the opponent, simply because many people did not expect this team to amount to much in general. That source of  sustained motivation is important, especially with “should win” games against KU, Iowa State and Texas still coming up. At the same time, I think the players genuinely believe in head coach Bill Snyder’s methodology and the preparation he puts them through, and that gives them confidence that they really can win any game. Obviously, that confidence and faith in each other is essential if the Wildcats plan on knocking off Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and/or Texas A&M.

Offense What Kansas State does with the football might not excite people right off the bat. That’s okay, though, because the results are exciting. In a league full of fast-moving, quick-scoring teams, the Wildcats’ attack is more measured, more methodical, and so far, pretty effective. While head coach Bill Snyder said the offense needs to be more prominent than it is now, he joked that the unit’s goal is to score more points than the team’s defense gives up, so up to this point, the offense has met its goals. The rushing game has been effective so far, largely because the Wildcats have a one-two punch between running back John Hubert and Klein. Both are averaging nearly 100 yards per game on the ground.

Going forward, the Wildcats need to develop a stronger passing attack. As quarterback Collin Klein continues to pile up repetitions, he becomes more accurate and makes better decisions. It looks like Snyder has cracked the playbook just a little bit more in recent weeks, but against meatier opponents with more seasoned defenses, Kansas State will need all cylinders firing.

Defense Easily the team’s most reputable unit so far, this group has been fun to watch. They like what they’re doing. The enthusiasm, passion and enjoyment of playing have made the Wildcats even more focused and disciplined. Simply stated, this is the area no one outside of the team is worried about. If there is one thing I would nitpick, it would be the secondary getting burnt on long pass plays. As Snyder says, this is bound to happen from time to time, but 10 different Texas Tech receivers had a catch of 10 or more yards on Saturday. That makes me worry a bit about what will happen when the Wildcats play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Special teams This group has been inconsistent. (As Snyder says, his son Sean, special teams coach, would be pulling his hair out if he had any hair.) Last week specifically, it performed tremendously. There’s not much more you can ask for than a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and two blocked field goal attempts. A less glamorous aspect of that game was the kickoff coverage team, which made Texas Tech start an average of 79 yards from the end zone on their five drives that began with kickoff returns.

Like everything, improvement needs to be made, particularly by the punt return unit, but the potential here is high – think Tramaine Thompson, Tyler Lockett and David Garrett.

 

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.

Best Moments of Game 3

24 Sep

Overall, Kansas State’s win over Miami put the Wildcats in a great spot going into the Big 12 portion of the season. In such a good game, there were some even better moments. Here are the ones I found particularly compelling.

  • Goal-line stand to end the game – With Miami in the red zone and just minutes to play in the game, the Wildcats got the Hurricanes into a third down situation. A pass interference penalty on Kansas State, however, gave Miami new life in the form of first down just yards from the end zone. Despite the lack of distance, the Wildcats kept the Hurricanes from breaching the goal line. The team’s fourth-down try was actually ruled a touchdown before video replay showed that the player’s knee was down before he crossed the white line. That whole sequence demonstrated such impressive mental and physical fortitude on the part of the K-State defense. It was exhilarating to watch. (And if you watched the video, that was published on YouTube by ESPN.)
  • Tyler Lockett’s first touchdown – The wide receiver (and son of the Wildcats’ all-time leading receiver Kevin Lockett) had a rough outing last week, but on Saturday he came up big for the Wildcats, putting himself on the receiving end of a 20-yard zinger from quarterback Collin Klein for the team’s first passing touchdown of the game.
  • 4-of-4 in the red zone – Kansas State finished well. When they got within striking distance, the Wildcats struck. The efficiency with which the team trampled over the Miami defense and converted on those drives seems to be a very positive sign for the team.
  • Delay of game due to weather – Since I was unable to see the game live in Miami, I really enjoyed the irony that the “Sunshine State” was rainy and dreary while Kansas had beautiful, clear, perfect weather.

Locketts appreciate Snyder’s coaching for “life after football”

11 Sep

Kevin Lockett, Kansas State’s all-time leading receiver who went on to play seven years in the NFL, was not surprised that his son, Tyler, decided to play football for the Wildcats. What he did not expect was that the coaching staff would be strikingly similar to what it was when he played there from 1993-1996.

“I just had no idea that Coach Snyder and his staff would still be there,” Kevin said. “So that was part of what, I believe, made the decision a little bit easier on him when he was selecting a college. We knew the exact experience that he was going to get, and this was something that made me feel comfortable as a parent knowing that, again, he was not going to just get coached on the field, but he was really going to get prepared for life after football.”

Despite the must-win mentality of big-time college football, Snyder took the time, Lockett said, to help him mature as a young man and prepare him for life after football. Accordingly, the focus was not only on what happened on the field, but off-the-field behavior as well.

Aaron Lockett, one of the best kick returners in school history and the brother of Kevin, characterized Snyder as a “standup guy” who taught players to be accountable and productive and gave them a chance to be successful.

“Football is great, but considering that his father and I both played, went to a high level and now are both working, let’s look at education first,” Aaron said. “Make sure you go to a university that gives you an opportunity to be successful in life.”

 

Player to Watch: Tyler Lockett

2 Sep

To all long-time Kansas State fans, this freshman’s last name is a familiar one. His dad, Kevin, is K-State’s all-time leading receiver, and his uncle, Aaron, is No. 4 on that list. However, Tyler has impressed people in practice all by himself and earned  as a No. 2 on the depth chart behind senior Sheldon Smith.

Quarterback Collin Klein said he had hardly seen Kevin and Aaron play before coming to Kansas State, but from what he did see, and what he has seen from Tyler so far, he draws a positive parallel.

“I’ve definitely seen them more since I’ve been here,” Klein said. “[They’re] very special individuals, and Tyler’s no different.”

Senior and two-time captain Emmanuel Lamur mentioned that Lockett is one of the offensive players who has stood out to him in practice. With the depth at the receiver position – Brodrick Smith, Tramaine Thompson, Chris Harper, Sheldon Smith, etc., surely it is a good sign that other players are taking notice of this freshman.

Head coach Bill Snyder, who usually likes for players to redshirt their first year, said Lockett may be seeing the field some this season.

“Because of his obvious genetics, you anticipated that he would be a good player, but indeed he has,” Snyder said. That never surprises me, but it’s been very pleasing in regards to how he’s performed. Oftentimes, you know he runs like his uncle and is catching the ball like his father, so I’ve really been pleased with what he’s done up to this point in time.”