The morale of the defense and the entire team is up at least to this still early point in camp. The intensity has been turned up and no starting job is secure so this year's team will get no chance to rest on their laurels. This is a return to hard nosed, boot camp like training camp where only the strongest will play.
As mentioned in part one of this piece there has been some players who have really stepped it up on this team as vocal leaders and have taken the lead in creating a new identity for this year's defense.
"Ted Sims has really stepped up and Maurice Mack has been a great addition for us and he would have been whether it was at strong safety or at linebacker," said Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Bob Elliott. "Kyle Williams has stepped up big in the leadership department this year as well. This year we have a group of good young leaders who aren't afraid to speak up and let people know their feelings."
This has been a solid recruiting class, at least on paper for the Wildcats and in the early going but earlier this past week Coach Elliott said he likes what he sees so far and looking down the line he believes the future is bright.
Competition for key spots has upped the level of play recently and the emergence of new players has meant that veterans have had to step up their performances on the field in order to hold off the younger players.
"Justin McKinney is going to be a good player, with a lot of potential, he's a smart kid, who has a lot of quickness, I really like him, said Elliott. Zach Diles is a junior college linebacker and I think he will be a factor for us and Steve Burch is new to us from Dodge City and I think he can give us some help right away. We also have a talented group of freshman Eric Childs, and Reggie Walker has made an impact, the two young safeties Herndon and Hollis this was a good recruiting class and I think they are going to be good for the future."
Unfortunately one talented newcomer apparently has decided against attending Kansas State and playing for Bill Snyder. Ricky Miller selected Kansas State over offers from Washington and San Diego State after initially signing with Fresno State out of high school, but will not be wearing a Wildcat Uniform this year. Little is known why the athletic 6'3" 255lb defensive end out of Orange Coast College ultimately decided against playing for Kansas State.
All was in place for Miller to make an impact this fall, however after actually staying in Manhattan for a short time this summer, Ricky returned to California- and more specifically Fresno State. According to NCAA rules, as Ricky signed with Fresno State out of college, in seeking a transfer he would not lose a year of eligibility returning to Fresno State.
There are a some players who've switched positions on the defense. Maurice Mack moves over to linebacker from strong safety. That's a tough position change especially for a past starter.
The difference that is readily apparent with this years' squad is team effort. A change has been made in attitude and approach and this group of players has bought into the team concept and whatever is best for the team.
"I was comfortable at my position and perfecting the things that I have learned playing safety the first three years of my career said Mack. Then they moved me and I had to learn a whole new position, but it's for the team, and right now it is all about the team."
Free Safety Marcus Watts moves over to that position from wide receiver and is cautiously optimistic about his ability to learn a lot in a short amount of time as the first game on September 3rd is quickly approaching.
"Hopefully by the start of the season I'll know everything; I think I will said Watts. I think over the next four weeks we have twenty-nine practices and hopefully that will be enough time."
Although filled with new players, the competition level has put everyone on notice positions are open and players will be moved for the betterment of the team. If there is a readily apparent difference, it is that the coaches are not afraid to replace former starters with new players and move personnel to get the best players on the field. Competition levels and work ethic has been emphasized this off-season and that has set the tone for August two-a-days.
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