As with many positions heading into Spring practices, changes were to be made and positions left vacant awaiting new owners. That carried over to fall practices where the competition for a starting position on this year's Wildcat football team is intense and wide open. Looking to mix up personnel and find combinations that will work, there have been a couple of position switches that took place during spring practice that will go a long way in defining the identity of this Wildcat Defense. One of the more noticeable changes is Maurice Mack. This year Mack, the former starting strong safety will be featured at weakside linebacker.
The athletic Mack, a 6-0, 200 lb junior out of Olathe, Kansas made the switch before spring practices and took most of the reps during that time with the starting defense. Though out fall practices, Mack has been listed number one at weak side linebacker on the depth chart and the experiment looks to be permanent.
Last season, Maurice was an improving strong safety who saw action in all of Kansas State's 11 games, roving center field for the Cats and calling plays. He had 23 tackles, including 11 solo tackles that compounded the coaching staff's decision to take a proven commodity in Mack out of the defensive backfield and make the switch to linebacker.
"At first I was little hesitant because I was already starting at safety, said Mack. "I really didn't want to move because I was comfortable at my position and perfecting the things that I have learned playing safety the first three years of my career. Then they moved me and I had to learn something new, plus it was for the team, and right now it is all about the team."
At only 200 lbs, some are already starting to questioning if Mack has the size to compete at linebacker. Much like another undersized linebacker who wrapped up a great career at K-State only two years ago, the one thing that no one questions about Mack is his desire, athletic ability or heart to play the position.
"I don't think I'm undersized, said Mack. Two years ago we had Josh Buhl and I am 20 pounds heavier than he was. As long as I keep learning and doing the things I'm doing right now I think I'll be pretty good."
The talk going on at media day was how Mack has been given the green light at the training table. Mack is attempting to add extra weight by increasing his food intake and eating habits when most athletes have to watch what they eat. The K-State coaches have told Maurice to eat and eat often and have tailored a diet at the training table for Maurice to add the additional muscle to his frame before the season starts.
"That won't be a problem (adding weight), I'll get it done," said Mack.
There are always difficulties when it comes to changing positions. Although the strong safety does call defensive alignments, the linebacking position requires you to read many more formations and schemes and adjust for containment and responsibility.
Strong safety can be a little more free lance at times and at the line, mistakes are magnified. Although the move has not been without a learning curve, making the move in Spring practices has allowed Mack more time to learn the position and reps. Mack has adjusted quickly and is feeling more comfortable with each practice at his new position.
"The hardest part is reading the keys, that's was a booger for me," said Mack. "Instead of reading one person like the wide receiver, linebackers have to read three people. It was kind of difficult, but I think I'm learning pretty well."
2005 is a new beginning for Kansas State. New Season, new players, new Defense. Since his arrival in Manhattan, Coach Snyder has shown a penchant for mixing things up and a knack for crafting new schemes to fit his players. Mack along with the rest of the Wildcats defense is pumped up and hopeful about the potential for a season of success. A season that is already being scrutinized by many of the "pundits" and biased East Coast media who already have voiced their doubts about the 2005 Wildcat Football team. But like so often before, The Cats usually fair better when the have something to prove.
"I am always excited when we are starting a new season," said Mack. "Last
year was kind of disappointing but last year is behind us. Right now
we're about 2005, and I think we are going to surprise a lot of people."
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