Tag Archives: Vai Lutui 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.

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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.

 

 

Position Preview: Defensive Line

31 Aug

“Oh, that’s never happened before!”

That was the reaction senior cornerbacks Tysyn Hartman and David Garrett had as they watched film of this year’s defense. What’s the difference that compelled them to comment as they did? Speed. Hartman said the defense as a whole is much faster, and defensive linemen in particular are pursuing the ball in a way their teammates down the field greatly appreciated.

“Our D-line is so much better than last year,” Garrett said. “They give a lot more effort [and are] bigger and stronger.”

When Kansas State’s defense takes the field on Saturday, many fans might recognize only one of the front four. 6’4″ and 305-pound senior Ray Kibble, who started nine games last season and played in all 13, will anchor the defense as the nose tackle. The other defensive tackle will be 6’2″ and 280-pound Vai Lutui, a transfer who amassed 63 tackles last season while helping his Mount San Antonio Community College team to a 13-0 record and national championship win.

“Both of them play hard,” Snyder said of the pair. “Ray has really come into his own, has been a more physical player, has been a tremendous effort player during the course of our preseason practices, which I appreciate a great deal. Vai has really done the same thing, practices hard, and I’m convinced will play hard as well.”

At defensive end, 6’3″ and 250-pound Jordan Voelker (son of Randall Voelker, a three-year offensive tackle for the Wildcats) has worked his way into the starting lineup after seeing time in five games last season. On the other end is 6’0″ and 254-pound Adam Davis, a prized recruit who had to redshirt last season because of an injury after playing at Hutchinson Community College in 2009.

“Adam is a very competitive young guy, has kind of an innate knack for the game, has a feel for it,” Snyder said. “He’s one of those guys that every snap is going to be pretty much the same for him. It’s going to be his best effort each and every time, succeed or fail. Voelker, I think, is as consistent a player as we have on our football team. You exactly what you’re going to get, and you get it every single snap exactly the same way. [He’s] very responsible-capable. Whatever his responsibilities are, you’re pretty certain that’s what you’re going to get.”

The members of this season’s defensive line have the tough task of shoring up a unit that last season allowed the most rushing yards per game in the Big 12 and nearly the most in the entire nation. While players said those numbers disappointed them, they use them for motivation without holding on to them.

“It’s already left in the past for me,” Garrett said. “When you dwell on the past, you never can move forward, so it’s just a new year, a new season, a new team.”