Kansas State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Kansas State Wildcats
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Kansas State Wildcats Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Clay-mation – Kansas State’s Thomas Clayton is a special running back and when you watch him play, you understand this fully.  However, the question of whether the Wildcats can put the offense entirely on Clayton’s shoulders isn’t one with a clear answer.  Here’s a guy who is 6’, 220 pounds, fast, powerful and everything a coach would want in a gamebreaking tailback.  Especially a new coach and new offensive staff.  But, is he a guy that new head coach Ron Prince can fully rely upon – not from a talent standpoint, but from a leadership/character angle?  Clayton has the dynamic skills in the running game to give Big XII defenses trouble, as he runs behind his pads with speed and power.  As a result, he ran for 637 yards last year to lead the Wildcats in rushing, although he wasn’t a major factor in a handful of games in the heart of the season.  And, therein lies the problem with Clayton.  He started the season out strong, but after being suspended for the North Texas game, he didn’t do a whole lot until the last two games of the year – a close Nebraska loss and a victory against Missouri in the finale.  He was suspended last year for a game and he’s suspended again for the opener against Illinois State for an incident on campus.  Add in the fact that he’s dealing with a new head coach, staff and all-around new attitudes, and Clayton could be a star who takes the revived Wildcat program to another level or turn into an irrelevant has-been or never-was.  The Cats have a number of different situations that have to work themselves out to be relevant in the Big 12 North this year, including the three-way QB ‘situation’, but the focal point for this team is Clayton (and the Cats running game) and his performance after the suspension in the opener.

2nd and Seven – The key figure – Nothing in a player’s life shakes up his homeostasis more than a coaching change.  Change at the top level infiltrates everything a player knows and has been used to in his career to that point.  Given the change at the top, a change that filters through to the defensive coaching staff, Marcus Watts at free safety might be the key figure for the Wildcat defense this season.  The Cats leader in the middle was second on the team in tackles with 71, but his play and how he’s utilized should change.  New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, formerly a coach on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will probably bring some of Monte Kiffin’s famous cover two defense to Manhattan; at the very least, he’ll incorporate some aspects of that scheme for the Wildcats this season, which puts the spotlight on the free safety – Watts.  As the defensive MVP of last year’s team, Watts will have to be a playmaker of a different vein this season, but he might be more important in helping the rest of this defense adjust to the changes that Morris and his staff will institute.

3rd and Three – They better be good – Offensive linemen and offensive line coaches are a different breed.  There’s an arrogance, a presence that exists with those who toil in the trenches, and they know it and love it.  Then, after years of anonymity, an offensive line coach takes over as your head coach?  Oh boy, the offensive line better be good.  That’s what the Kansas State offensive line is facing this year.  Not only does this group have to deal with a change in scheme, terminology and techniques, but they’ve got to deal with their head man who knows just a little more about the offensive line than any other unit on the field.  It’s similar in a sense to having your head coach as your position coach.  Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is the special teams coach at Virginia Tech, and his units have been exceptional every season.  Ron Prince won’t coach the offensive line, but the expectation that he’ll have for this quintet will be a tad bit higher than it was last year, or any other year for that matter.  And, this youthful line will have to answer that pressure with a solid season.

4th and One – What will we see? – There have been turnaround coaching jobs, and then there is what Bill Snyder did at Kansas State.  But, when he retired after last season, the question of who would follow him was followed by “Ron who?”  Talk about following a legend.  Here’s a 36 year old rookie head coach being handed a Big XII program that needed a shot of enthusiasm and passion.  Ron Prince’s youthful exuberance and work ethic have already gotten his team’s attention and should soon have fellow Big XII teams on full alert.  But, what is always interesting is how a team molds itself as an extension of the new head coach.  Oklahoma leached off of Bob Stoops’s arrogance and cocksure attitude to take a national championship in his second year.  Notre Dame found a quiet confidence in Charlie Weis’s cerebral approach to the game.  How will KSU respond to Prince and his staff’s coaching style?  Will they be a smashmouth, physical entity?  Will they have an offense predicated on misdirection and deception or execution and precision?  Will the defense be a bend but don’t break cover two unit or an intimidating, tough and versatile unit?  Those answers won’t be unearthed for a while, but Ron Prince will provide those answers soon enough, good, bad or otherwise.

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