Kansas State Scouting Report

The thing you have to understand about Kansas State head coach Ron Prince is that he's a stickler for doing things right. The best example came in August during fall camp. Prince felt the offense was sloppy with the football. So in the middle of an open practice he stopped and had the offense run the stadium step; not just the players but the offensive coaching staff and even the managers.

Prince also talks about football in his press conferences very formal. Here is an example from his press conference on Monday as he discussed the 47-20 victory last Saturday over the same Colorado team that disposed of Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago.

"We met our objective in this last game in that we wanted to improve our play in a couple of areas and be able to win," announced Prince. "We didn't play perfectly, however. That was real clear to anyone that was watching and after reviewing the tape as well, in any of our phases. We did lead the game. That was the thing that allowed us to play in a particular style that put us in a position to really try to grow and be mature, put ego aside and win the game. I thought that was a real step for us.

"Although from a style standpoint the game really wasn't that pleasing to us and how we'd like to play around here. I know with the score, some people might be scratching their heads and say, ‘What is he talking about?' We played a good team. We played a team that was very well coached. They had some very specific things that they were trying to zero in on, both from things that we had done in the past that they were trying to exploit that they had seen a weakness in, and also some things that are universal in attacking this kind of style that we're trying to play in. I thought they did a really good job and I think they're very well coached.

"Their schemes and tactics, strategies, found us in a position where we had to make multiple adjustments in the game," continued the K-State head coach. "From one standpoint it was a lot of fun, very challenging to do that because we do know their coaches and their background and they know ours so I think this is going to be a pretty intriguing match up for years to come.

"It challenged us in every facet of the game to make the kind of adjustments that were necessary to win the game even if it wasn't to play perfectly. Our coaches and players did a nice job of eventually making those adjustments work well enough to win, but we had some things occur in all three phases that we've got to fix if we want to win again and we also had some things in all three phases that went well that we'll need again in the future."

You can feel certain that those problems are being fixed this week. Prince is a powerful man that means business, and more times than not his football team takes on his personality. Don't be surprised at all if this game doesn't turn out to be the most difficult in this upcoming homestand.

The Wildcats have a multiple offense that leans to the pass about 60 percent and they run roughly 40 percent of the time. Big and mobile quarterback Josh Freeman got his first start in the come-from-behind win over the Cowboys in Manhattan last season. He has improved tremendously, but can still have an off day. The Wildcats ride with him on Saturdays. If he's on and sharp, so are they. If the 6-6, 250-pounder is struggling, so do they.

Wide receivers Jordy Nelson (senior) and speedster Deon Murphy are potential game breakers. Murphy is also a demon on punt returns. They run good routes, catch the ball well, and can make defenders miss in the open field.

James Johnson (5-11, 200) is the big running back with Dallas (W.T. White) product Leon Patton (5-7, 187) the speedster. Both play and both are capable of the big play although K-State isn't likely to live on their running game.

The offensive line is the youngest part of the team with two sophomores starting and two new starters over the past couple of weeks. This area of their team can be exploited.

Last week in the win over Colorado, Prince liked the way his offense responded in crunch time.

"Offensively, I thought the most important thing we did in the game was that we found points right before the half in the two-minute (drill)," said Prince. "It was something that we worked on, it wasn't perfect, it could have gone either way, but the point is we were able to move it, we were able get the ball down, we were able to kick it and get those points. Subsequently, we didn't turn the ball over at any point in the game and I thought that was the other story really, offensively."

One potential problem for the Wildcats this week is that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach James Franklin has had to leave town because of a family emergency. As you would expect, Prince has it under control.

"The way we do it (game plan and prepare) is very collaborative," explained Prince. "Somebody actually has to write the script. Somebody has to tell them which wristband number is and which signal to signal in, but it's much more collaborative than people think. I've been in this situation a couple of times – not with the death of a parent – but in the situation, we've had to miss some practice time because of some other issues. The staff always does a good job of rallying behind that guy. Every guy on the staff has certain responsibilities throughout the week anyhow.

"We're going to play this by ear with James (Franklin). I've told him to take as much time as he needs with him and his family to make sure he's at peace with how this is done. However much time that is, that's how much time he'll take. We've spoken today. We spoke yesterday, but we'll continue to stay on schedule and everybody will do a very collaborative effort. So we'll see what it looks like on Saturday. It's usually that way anyhow."

The Wildcats have gone to a 3-4 look defensively this season and moved stellar defensive end Ian Campbell back to an outside linebacker. You still see him on the line of scrimmage as the Cats often line up in a 50 look. The entire defensive line is stout and they are second in the Big 12 in sacks with 20. Campbell has adjusted and even returned an interception for a touchdown in the win at Texas.

The linebackers are OK. Ponca City, Okla., native Justin Roland, a team captain, has moved into a starting middle linebacker position.

The secondary is outstanding with free safety Marcus Watts a player to be respected. He is a stud! Corners Justin McKinney and Byron Gavin are also playmakers that have excellent coverage skills.

Prince had these thoughts on his defense from last week's win over Colorado.

"Defensively, we were able to make three critical fourth-down stops and we were very good on third down, very solid," he said. "When the opportunity came, we made the most of it and got the ball back. That was something that we had not been that great at, something that we were lacking from some other efforts to win, so that was good to see."

Special Teams
This is a very strong area for Kansas State ranging from their nation's top punt return unit to the top kicker and punter in the Big 12 in Brooks Rossman (13 of 16 on field goals this season, including a 52-yard make against Colorado) and Tim Reyer (averaging 44.9-yards a punt). A weakness may be the kickoff coverage unit and they are average on kickoff returns. The good advice is to be ready on every special teams situation on Saturday. Colorado lost the special teams match up to the Wildcats last week.

"We found some kicking game plays," said Prince. "They did not come in our normal mode of big returns for touchdowns, but they were still big. We were able to get the kind of production from our field goal kicker that made us very comfortable to go ahead and take the points and take the field position, and play a certain way.

"Once it was apparent that he was going to be on, that really helped us and we were also able to capitalize late in the game on a punt snap that wasn't perfect that the punter dropped and we were able to go in a block that. That's big for us because we really felt like we had to find a way to be impactful in the kicking game outside of just getting the big return. There are other ways to impact and we've been sub-par in that area."

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