Rapid Recap: Playing faster on defense
According to safety Josh Hayes, the transition to Kansas State has been seamless. That's even when switching positions from cornerback to safety. It helps a lot that he was at North Dakota State prior to his stint at Virginia.
Though his time with the Cavaliers was uneventful, he has been someone that has been adored in Manhattan. He has fit in right in with the community and locker room. Hayes couldn't be happier.
Another aid to his cause has been his memory of how things went in Fargo. There has been some crossover to how they conduct business at K-State. The efficiency of practices and workouts is something he was able to pick up on right away because of his previous experience.
Though they are running a different scheme, his man-to-man coverage reps in the past have been a benefit to him at free safety, and he has nestled into a spot and position where he may be the top safety on the team.
Leadership is needed at safety. They lost a lot of experience when all three starters from a year ago had their eligibilities expire. It is not as simple as it sounds to replace that kind of maturity in Ross Elder, Jahron McPherson and Russ Yeast.
The last of that trio is now playing in the NFL.
However, Kansas State feels comfortable with the plethora of options that are available to them. The vocal leaders that have stepped up and assumed those roles thus far have been Hayes and Cincere Mason.
They have played a lot of college football and that shows up both in the pre-snap reads and the post-snap communication between defenders.
Playing fast is the central part of the defensive philosophy under Chris Klieman, whether K-State has been in a four-down or three-down alignment. Obviously, they now deploy a 3-3-5 scheme.
Though they played fast versus Stanford, it wasn't always the case a season ago.
The defense was definitely hampered by the loss of Khalid Duke before they successfully adjusted in order to have better outcomes against the other teams remaining on the schedule.
Thankfully, they found a weapon in Reggie Stubblefield.
There were still some kinks to work out in the offseason. The Wildcats were still fine-tuning everything and needed to discover what the solutions were at safety. Some of that was some positional switches.
Shawn Robinson left the safety position for the linebacker room. Hayes left the cornerback spot for the safeties and began to work more under Joe Klanderman.
Between the Spring and now, it is a night and day difference. They are more understanding of the concepts and principles and aren't still concluding on where to put who and in what situations.
They can now just play football with everything clicking.
It is a weird habit of mine. I typically point it out when writing up each story about every media session. I like to identify where the subject of the interview lights up the most or is the most animated.
For Josh Hayes, it was when he was asked about linebacker Daniel Green. "That's a guy," he immediately answered.
That is not an isolated incident.
That has happened a few times when speaking to coaches and players when discussing the All-Big 12 linebacker. He has recently been named a captain at Kansas State, and it's clear that he's viewed as one of the more integral pieces to the 2022 roster.
He's flying around, and according to Hayes, Green "does not miss". I'm expecting a performance for the books from the Wildcat linebacker.
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OFFENSIVE PLAYER GIVING FITS
One of the questions I love to ask defensive players is what offensive players have given them fits in practice or are a pain in the butt to deal with on a regular basis. Deuce Vaughn is an obvious answer most of the time.
The answers aside from that have been interesting throughout camp. Hayes' two other answers have reflected a bit of the consensus from Joe Klanderman and the rest of the guys on that unit.
They have a ton of respect for Phillip Brooks, even if he is underrated and not valued enough by most. It sounds like Brooks has taken his game to another level and been even more locked in this offseason.
It was also great to hear further reinforcement of how Adrian Martinez is so effective at manipulating defenses with more than just his arm or legs. He has a psychological game in his arsenal that gives defenders problems as well.
Nearly every defensive player has mentioned his ability to look off defenders and move them with his eyes to create new or larger throwing windows for his pass-catching targets. Hayes was particularly impressed by that part of his game.