K-State Sports Extra: OL a Year Better

By Mark Janssen

A year older could/should translate into a year better. At least that's the hope in the Kansas State football camp when it comes to offensive line play where four starters return from last year's starting unit.

"Success comes from how well you know the guy next to you," said K-State senior center Wade Weibert. "When you play beside a guy, you get a feel for how he's going to block and how you can work together. This spring we haven't had to start at the bottom and build continuity, but instead we could build on the continuity that was developed last year."

Senior left guard Zach Kendall added, "When you basically return an entire line it's just a comforting feeling. We played next to one another the entire 2009 season, and from that you develop an expectation and trust in the man beside you."

Weibert and Kendall are being joined on the o-line by right-side returning starters in senior Kenneth Mayfield at guard and junior Clyde Aufner at tackle. The newcomer to the unit is junior Zach Hanson, a transfer from Sacramento Community College, who is taking the place of Nick Stringer at left tackle.

"It's been somewhat easy for me in that those guys have done it before and proven themselves," said Hansen. "Playing beside Zach (Kendall) has been a big help because he knows what he's doing when it comes to play calls."

Depth comes from the likes of senior Trevor Viers, junior Colton Freeze, sophomore Ethan Douglas, plus redshirt freshmen Keenan Taylor and Cornelius Lucas.

"We have good depth," said Weibert. "The staff has ways to keep things competitive and they remind us that the depth chart is very fluid. As a player, you don't want to have two bad days in a row."

On the play of the line, Coach Bill Snyder said he was pleased with the progress, but like every area, he's looking for more consistency.

"I like the way they practice, I like the way they play together, and I like their attitude toward improving," said Snyder. "It's a very cohesive and dedicated group of young guys. Improvement is very important to them."

Weibert has beefed up 5 to 10 pounds to 305 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, plus he says he's stronger than a year ago. Now, he says, "I'm trying to figure out how to make my new body move."The 6-2 Kendall has also added about 10 pounds, which puts him at 312.

"My thing is getting my footwork better," said Kendall. "Coach (Charlie) Dickey is great with fundamentals. I didn't think I was too bad of a lineman when I got here, but I'm a completely different player now."

Rounding out the offensive line are Aufner at 6-5, 300 pounds, Hanson at 6-8, 313, and Mayfield at 6-4, 338.

That makes for an o-line that averages 6-4 and 313 pounds per man.

And, the backups have some bulk as well: Douglas (6-6, 295), Freeze (6-4, 300), Lucas (6-8, 312), Taylor (6-4, 278) and Viers (6-4, 297).

Collectively, Weibert says, "We're still striving for better consistency, but our effort level is better and we're a tougher unit than a year ago. There's not that giant learning curve that we faced last year with a new offensive line coach and a new system. We know better what to expect."

And, Weibert says that the leadership is better than a year ago.

"When we know our play is sloppy, someone steps up in the huddle and says something. 'Hey, this isn't going to cut it.' " said Weibert. "We're not waiting for a coach to tell us to pick it up. We're more of a self-directed unit right now. Leadership shouldn't just come from the coaches."

Kendall says that vocal leadership is something he's had to work on, but understands that "... younger guys tend to listen more when you have the experience and have been a starter. But we need everyone to step up. If I'm messing up, I want to hear about it, and that message can come from a younger player. We're in this together."

During the off season, Weibert says he was constantly told how much better the line was from the year before. But deep down, he knew it wasn't good enough.

"It's one of those things where you say, 'Thank you,' but we didn't get to where we wanted to go. We were home for Christmas," said Weibert in reference to not being bowl eligible. "All through winter conditioning we reminded each other how close we were, but we still fell short. We were better, maybe, but where did that get us? Being home for the holidays was a big motivating factor this past winter and spring.

"We have to pick it up more because we know they're not just sitting around in Norman (Oklahoma) and Lincoln (Nebraska)," Weibert said. "They're trying to get better, too."