We've already talked about Maurice Mack moving to linebacker and just recently fullback Ayo Saba was moved to the defensive line in an effort to produce depth and shore up some late defections along the line.
All of these changes could be viewed in several different ways but all of them have positives to be had. First, these are very talented players who you want to see the field and contribute anyway they can.
Second, there are positions that are very thin depth wise and it's a concern of the Kansas State coaches and these players facilitate the type of depth and rotation the team needs.
Third, Coach Snyder has raised the bar by putting hardworking players in a position to challenge the incumbent starters and force competition so no one becomes complacent with their spot on the depth chart. Or perhaps the answer is all of the above, and it's just a way to strengthen the team from top to bottom.
Of the changes so far, the one that has gained the most talk and attention- as well as possibly the most early success has been the move of sophomore Marcus Watts from offense to defensive backfield.
This talented player out of Hayes Kansas played stellar on special teams last season which included an impressive 9 solo stops. For that effort on the field, Watts was voted the teams MVP on the special teams for 2004, during his freshman red shirt season..
An outstanding all-around athlete, Watts was moved from receiver to the secondary during spring practices. The 6-2, 180 lb. sophomore played in the secondary, at wide receiver and on special teams during the spring game. It's never easy leaving your comfort zone on the field by playing a new position, but with the team concept that has been stressed, Watts as well as the other Wildcats have made the switch and are trying to soak in everything thrown at them while adjusting to their new positions. Although many of the moves are difficult at first, the unity and team chemistry on this team has reinforced the moves and the players understand it is necessary in terms of what is best for the team.
"Hopefully by the start of the season I will know everything, said Watts. I think I will. I think over the next four weeks we have twenty-nine practices and hopefully I will just be able to go out there and it will naturally happen."
There's a renewed spirit on the defense this fall and this squad wants to get back to the tradition rich play that teams from the past established before them- namely the Lynch Mob. Watts says there is a marked difference in the attitude and spirit of the players on this team even at this early point in the fall and that the difference is very visible to the players, especially the newcomers.
"I see the spirit, said Watts. We got the spirit back, we're flying to the ball, we're tackling better and we have more depth in the secondary. I wish tomorrow was September 3rd, I am ready for it to be here."
There is a big battle going on for the starting nod at free safety between Watts and senior Jessie Tetuan who has taken a lot of criticism over the last couple of years. This is a competition that will go down to the last practice before the coaches make their decision.
"Right now we are looking at them both and trying to figure out who is going to be able to step into the position. It is a battle out there right now for the starting spot but regardless of whose name is called as the starter, they both will play. At least early on we are going to play both and see who takes over the position," said secondary and defensive coordinator Coach Bob Elliott.
The changes that have taken place so far with Kansas State football 2005 is a result of the overall attitude adjustment that's taken place. In talking with some of the coaches, what might be the biggest difference this year versus prior years is the chemistry and team concept. This years team is concerned with team first, putting personal goals aside and making the sacrifices necessary for the betterment of the team.
Even those players who have locked up their seemingly starting positions have embraced the new team concept and this standard has set the tone for those coming into the program. Watts is expected to continue to push Tetuan until the coaching staff makes a decision on who the starter will ultimately be on starting day. That said, the challenge from new players and those who have made the position changes like Watts serve as notice that all things are open for discussion and things may need to be done differently this year. Thus far, Watts move has illustrated how successful the moves can be and to be honest- who would have thought that Watts in such a short time could come so far?
If the attitude and effort of players like Saba, Watts and Mack are indications of for the type of season K-State is to have- Wildcat Fans could be in for another entertaining and successful year of Wildcat Football!
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