As the Jayhawks prepare to take on Kansas State so much focus has been on stopping the Wildcats offense. We take a closer look one of the keys…special teams.
The talk all week has centered around stopping Collin Klein and the Kansas State offense. There are a lot of other things the Jayhawks will have to do well including special teams. The special teams edge has been big for Kansas State in past games. But it has been an area overlooked this week by the media when talking about this game.
Clint Bowen, who knows this series all too well, understands what it will take from his special teams unit.
"Under Bill Snyder they have always done a great job on special teams," Bowen said. "For years they have been known as one of the better special teams from their punt return to kickoff returns, and blocking kicks. They are always well prepared and ready to go. We need to match that on special teams."
Kansas State is third in the nation in punt return defense. Their kickoff return unit ranks sixth in the country. Punter Ryan Doerr has only had one punt returned all season.
"The punter Doerr was up for the Ray Guy Award last year," Bowen said. "He's got great hang time. People look at his numbers and he's only averaging 39 yards a punt which is deceiving. They are netting almost 39 yards because he kicks them to the sky and there is a lot to be said for that. Some guys kick the ball 48 yards and there is no hang time. Then it comes screaming back at you. He does what you really want a punter to do. He's very good at that. Cantelle he's a strong leg kickoff guy and good field goal kicker."
Between Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett Kansas State leads the nation in punt return average. The Wildcats use both players back to return punts.
"Locket and Thompson do a nice job," Bowen said. "They are quick, shifty type guys who field the ball well. If you look at them punts don't hit the ground. They get the ball and get going downhill."
Special teams is going to be an important part of the game for the Jayhawks on Saturday. Bowen wouldn't talk about specific things they could do to counter Kansas State, but the extra time to prepare helped.
"We always try to keep the focus the same (no matter of opponent)," Bowen said. "With the bye week it gave us a little extra time to look at things and see what we are doing. We were able to scout ourselves and extra scouting on our opponent. We had a chance to emphasize on what we need to work on."
Defensive line changes attack
The talk all week has been how to stop Collin Klein. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds Klein presents match-up problems with his size and speed.
"The thing that you really notice about Klein is that he competes," said Buddy Wyatt, the Jayhawks defensive line coach. "He's got good size and he's really more elusive that what he looks on tape. He's bigger and faster than he looks on tape. He's one of those players the tape doesn't do him justice. His size and athleticism will present us some problems."
The scheme is also something defenses have to prepare for. Since Klein carries the ball a lot it gives Kansas State an advantage in the run block game. He acts as an extra running back and the Wildcats can use a blocker to "out-gap" defenses.
That will put extra pressure on the defensive line to fight off blocks and cover a gap.
"I tell my guys up front you can't go one-for-one," Wyatt said. "If you go one-for-one they are going to get extra hats on you. You have to defeat a block and go make a play. If we don't then they will have an extra guy. We have to try to win our battles and that's what I have been preaching all week."
The players up front have been hearing about it for two weeks. They know how important it will be to stay active in the Kansas State run game.
"That's something coach Wyatt has stressed a lot (about KSU)," said Toben Opurum. "When a team runs the quarterback like that they will always have an extra person. What it takes is being physical and somebody has to come off the block to make a play. If I have a certain gap I might have to beat my blocker and get in another gap."