Saturday, October 6, 2012

Armed and dangerous: K-State QB Klein powerful rusher, can fling it, too

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (7) prepares to throw during a game against Oklahoma on Sept. 22, 2012, in Norman, Okla.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (7) prepares to throw during a game against Oklahoma on Sept. 22, 2012, in Norman, Okla.


— Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein can throw the football.

The ball may not come out of his hand the way it leaves Tom Brady’s, and his passes might not have the same zip that Aaron Rodgers gets. But Klein can throw. He did it successfully 161 times out of 281 attempts (57.3 percent) a season ago and enters today’s 11 a.m. match-up with Kansas (1-3) in Manhattan having completed 56 of 80 passes for 758 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

Included in this year’s numbers are a couple of crucial third-down passes in the Wildcats’ upset of No. 6 Oklahoma two weeks ago in Norman, Okla. Because the Kansas State senior is so accomplished as a runner, many have looked at it as a victory when they have forced Klein to throw. But that’s not the case any longer.

“I think that’s a simple way of looking at it because I’ve seen them be pretty successful throwing the ball,” KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo said. “I think the victory is when they don’t get in the end zone. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

So now that we’ve established that the myth of Klein existing only as a runner is false, we can move on and focus on what it is about his wheels that makes him so effective with the ball tucked under his right arm instead of trickling off the finger tips of his right hand.

KU coach Charlie Weis had a few ideas.

“(He is) one of the most interesting quarterbacks that you can study in college football today,” Weis said, “because in today’s game, where everyone is slinging it all over the place or everyone is running the read option, he really does not do any one of those things. He is a power runner.”

Klein tips the scales at 6-foot-5, 226 pounds and has great balance, better vision and even greater desire. Rarely does he go down on first contact or let a couple of stops by the defense frustrate him into doing something out of character or making a bad decision. The Jayhawks know that, and they’re preparing for a dog fight.

“As far as I know, football games don’t last six or seven plays long,” senior co-captain Toben Opurum. “You’ve gotta be able to compete every play, every minute and every quarter. So, while I’d be happy if we could bring him down six or seven times in a row, we understand what he’s capable of, and we gotta do it all game.”

For Weis and Campo, the danger of Klein as a competent passer lies in the fact that it can be all too tempting to stack the defense to stop the run. So it becomes a pick-your-poison scenario, except, with Klein, it often seems more like pick-your-punishment.

“You have to spend so much time trying to stop him as a runner, it obviously exposes you in the pass game because of play-action,” Weis said. “Sometimes they get some really easy money (in the passing game), because you have to come up and stop (the run). But if you do not stop him, you really do not have much of a chance.”

Klein, as a concept, is almost a fish out of water in the pass-happy Big 12. During the past several years, spread offenses have dominated the league, but the powerful Powercat who has started for two seasons often has been one of the most physical players on the field — offense or defense.

“That’s very unusual,” said Campo, the former Dallas Cowboys head coach. “The only one that I can really compare him to is (Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben) Roethlisberger. I can remember three or four games where we had (Roethlisberger) sacked and he made a play because he was able to keep you off him. And that’s what Collin has. He has ability to make it very difficult for you to tackle, and he’s able to make some plays from that alone.”

Weis compares Klein to another pro quarterback.

“He reminds me a little bit of (Tim) Tebow,” Weis said of the former Florida star and current New York Jet.

Like Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, Klein’s production through the first four weeks of 2012 put him on pace to be in the Heisman conversation. However, after what West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith accomplished last week against Baylor (656 yards and eight TDs), anyone not named Smith gunning for Heisman recognition is likely to wind up in a fight for second place.

Not that Klein would care much.

The Loveland, Colo., native has been something of a thorn in the side of the Jayhawks during the past three seasons. In 2010, after he was inserted late in the game to spell starter Carson Coffman, Klein delivered a 51-yard touchdown run with 1:13 to play while essentially trying to kill the clock on a 59-7 rout.

A year later, during K-State’s 59-21 beatdown of the Jayhawks, Klein rushed for 92 yards and four scores and threw for 195 and one TD. Perhaps the scariest part about either of those performances is KSU coach Bill Snyder’s take on where Klein has gone from there.

“I think he has grown in every aspect of the game,” Snyder said. “... Collin is just adamant about improving all aspects of his game and certainly works diligently to do that.”

There are dozens of ways to prepare for a quarterback like Klein, and it’s a safe bet that Campo and Weis have tapped into all of them during the two weeks that led up to today’s Sunflower Showdown. But whether guys are in the right spots or make the right reads is irrelevant if they don’t take care of one key detail.

“You gotta get him on the ground,” Campo said. “He’s an excellent athlete. He’s not a make-a-bunch-of-people-miss (guy), but you have to tackle. He’s like a running back playing quarterback, and a big running back.”


Brad Watson 9 years, 7 months ago

i love this kid...hope he wins the heisman...great kid...but i hope we bury him tomorrow...go get this guy....we can win this...they aren't that good...they weren't picked to win the league...take it to them...blocking....tackling....the basics...and we can win!

Ashwin Rao 9 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Rogers, I believe your CAPS lock is enabled...Oh, and just in case you didn't know, the National CAPs lock day is on October 22nd! :)

Gary Wirsig 9 years, 7 months ago

Funny...but be careful when feeding trolls.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

S of a B

I was going to congratulate you for your ONE statement EVER for not mentioning Double M, but you had to go and blow it.

KCSportsMilitia 9 years, 7 months ago

KU vs. KSU Preview

Top Five Questions

  1. Will KU keep it close? Vegas Line: Anywhere from 23.5-25 points. KSU and Bill Snyder have outscored KU 135-38 in the last three match-ups since his return from retirement.

  2. Collin Klein... Heisman Candidate? Can KSU Senior QB Collin Klein continue what some consider to be a Heisman caliber season thus far?

  3. Can the Kansas defense force K-State to pass the ball? 2011 KSU Rushing -- 42 ATT, 261 YDS, and six TD's including four from Klein. 2010 KSU Rushing -- 40 ATT, 276 YDS, and five TD's. Tack on another 266 rushing in 2009... Pretty easy to win when you can control the ground game like they have. Atleast KU knows what KSU is going to do, stopping it is a different story. The optimist will point back to 2010 when KU upset the run prone Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets... that game serves as the blue print.

  4. Can the KU running game produce a big play? If the KU defense does force some stops, the running game will not only have to produce consistently, but they will need to produce a big play or two. This has been one of the missing links in the KU offense thus far. The Weis offense at its best will run effectively and live in manageable 2nd/3rd downs. The problem with this type of offense is that as the field shrinks in the red zone, there is less space for the offense to work... usually resulting in a stalled drive. The big play is the key, and the thing about big plays is that they come in bunches.

  5. Will KU continue to show signs of improvement? KU is in rebuilding mode... still. So obviously this question comes to mind every game. While KU has not figured out how to win games, I think it is fair to say that the team seems to have improved from last year when these two teams met. Four of the last five conference games have been decently competitive... @ISU 10-13... vs. Baylor 30-31 OT... vs. Mizzou 10-24... vs. TCU 6-20. I think a total blowout on Saturday, while all possible, is the biggest step back yet for this KU program.

KCSportsMilitia 9 years, 7 months ago

KU Players to Watch 1. James Sims... can Sims be the work horse that he has shown he can be in the past? 2. Dayne Crist... a solid day from Sims would make things a lot easier for Crist, maybe the week off did him some good as well. 3. Jimmay Mundine... Charlie Weis needs to find a way to get this playmaker involved more. 4. Huldon Tharp... in my unprofessional opinion, I think Tharp is one of the biggest weaknesses on the defense, look for Klein to show no mercy on the undersized linebacker. 5. Greg Brown... Hopefully "Lockdown" will get a few chances to make a play on third and long. 6. Bradley McDougald... Former banner recruit, takes the field for the last time against KSU, definitely could be an X-factor on Saturday.

KSU Players to Watch 1. Collin Klein... fierce runner, sneaky passer, patient decision maker, consistent performer, high football IQ, and just about every other intangible you can name. 2. Arthur Brown... The state of Kansas produced a great one with future NFL middle linebacker, heart and soul of the defense. 3. Justin Hubert... could run circles around KU if the blocks line up right, TD potential every time this kid touches the ball. 4. Meshak Williams... the live look I got of this guy last year in Memorial Stadium was enough to make me think he will play in the NFL next year. Relentless pass rusher off the edge.

Bottom Line: If KU plays like they have nothing to lose and create a few big plays on offense, this game could stay close.While you know a Bill Snyder led football team will never overlook anyone, KSU does have something to lose, and that mindset can be damaging to team psyche if things don't go to plan. I'm definitely more optimistic than most so I'm going to go with a score prediction of 31-21 KSU... but I admit that this one has the potential to get ugly. Hope this helped you prepare for the game a little bit more.

KCSportsMilitia 9 years, 7 months ago

Just trying to help people enjoy the game more... but thanks for the input.

jhox 9 years, 7 months ago

I would still force him to pass. I'd man up on their receivers with only one safety back. If we get beat long a couple of times, so be it, but I would try to keep them from long sustained drives so our defense isn't on the field all day.

John Mueller 9 years, 7 months ago

I agree. Stop the run and then success with our own running game gives us the best chance.

If he turns into Peyton Manning, good for him, but I like our odds much better if he has to throw the football.

My concern is really getting our offense going. I thought the K-State D was really the big story in the OU win. They were very aggressive.

I would love to watch the Sims, Pierson, Cox tandem have a huge day.

Maybe Crist strength is handing off....

Go Hawks!!!

Tired of getting bashed by the farmers.....

I can't wait for coach Snyder to re-retire.

Maybe we should raise some money to help him buy a nice condo in Western KS so he can enjoy his golden years?

johnnyhrdwd 9 years, 7 months ago

Funny how basic football can be so effective yet we line up and try to throw like we're the NE Patriots. I thought Charlie wanted to be like Snyder, 3rd and 10 all day long.

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