Takeaways: Kingsbury updates Mahomes' status, talks physicality in practice
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and a handful of defensive players spoke with the media after practice on Tuesday in anticipation of their first Big 12 road game against Kansas State this weekend...
-The big question of the week is obviously whether or not QB Pat Mahomes will play. According to Kingsbury, it's not out of the realm of possibility:
"There is a chance. I don't know what percentage that is, but if he can get on that bus and we feel good about him suiting up, then he'll be out there."
-So, what will the quarterback have to do in order to be cleared to play this weekend?
"Just get on the bus Saturday from the hotel to the stadium. That's kind of where we're at," he said. "We're not there yet, so we'll see. He's that talented. If he can throw and we can keep him out of harm's way and he's able to play, he'll play. I'm not sure if he'll be able to or not, but if he can at all and be safe, then we'll play him."
-Kliff noted that Mahomes didn't do very much on Tuesday at practice mostly "mental preparation."
-If QB Nic Shimonek does have to start on Saturday, there's one thing above all that Kingsbury has been impressed with about his backup quarterback:
"The number one thing is just the fearlessness. He was out there and joking from his first pass on. Everything I've seen him do in practice translated straight into his game. His reads, the velocity he throws with, stepped into his throws, and you don't always see that when the lights come on. Sometimes it's too big, they're too nervous. He cut it loose. That's what I was most impressed by."
-Kingsbury noted that the focus of practice so far this week has been for the offense and defense to play with more physicality. They understand how K-State is going to play football, and they know they'll have to match it, which Kliff believes they've done in practice so far this week:
"Good. We've asked them to be physical this week, and I thought both of them (offense and defense) were. They know what type of game it is. It's bigger sets than what we're used to seeing in this league, and they do a good job running the football and being physical, and we all know that, so we're trying to prepare for it."
-Kliff noted that he wasn't pleased at all with the physicality of the offensive line last week against Kansas.
-Kingsbury noted that Kansas State fullback Winston Dimel is touching the ball more than other K-State fullbacks in the past. The head coach noted that he's a big part of their game plan, which can be seen through his six rushing touchdowns so far this season, the most of any player for the Wildcats.
-The big factor in this weekend's contest, according to Kliff, is simply limiting mistakes He thought they did a terrible job of that in 2013 and 2014, but they played a much cleaner game in the win against K-State last year. His thoughts:
"That's the key. I think our guys understand that when you play this team if you squander possessions, you won't have many offensively. Defensively, you've got to man up. It's going to be a man's game."
-Kliff noted that a lot more of their passing touchdowns this year have come off of either play-action or run-pass option plays. They saw in the offseason the level of success other Big 12 teams were having offensively by scoring on PA and RPO plays through the air, and it's paid off this year at times in run situations, whether Kliff calls it or Mahomes or Shimonek have audibled into it.
-The think Kingsbury has been the most displeased with early on in the season is the penalites, partiularly offensively.
-"We really had a heart to heart about that as an offense. Defensively we've done a good job of avoiding those. But when you have I think 20 in the last two games, that's insane. That's on me. It's a lack of discipline, just being sloppy, so we just have to focus on tightening things up, and I hope that shows up on Saturday."
-Sophomore defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko discussed how practice is going so far this week, noting that the practices have been about being very physical in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
"This past week, today and yesterday, has been a lot more physical. I think the O-line and D-line, it's just been real edgy out there, been getting after it. But, for the most part, I think the focus has been on the O-line and D-line this week, and I feel like we're responding to the call pretty well."
-Fehoko really believes they need to make sure and hold blockers so the linebacking corps has a chance to make plays against the K-State running game.
"It's important up front that we allow our linebackers to roam free and make tackles. That's going to be the key to this game. I think that was the key last year too when we played K-State was holding up blocks, owning that line of scrimmage. Kansas State is that kind of school that will come out, hit you in the mouth, keep pounding, pounding, pounding, and then toss it up."
-K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz is the leading rusher for the Wildcats this year, so I asked Fehoko what the biggest keys to try and keep him in check were...
"The main thing I think that Coach Gibbs and Coach Patrick have instilled in us this week is holding your gap. You look at Kansas State and what they do, they like to piggyback when they double team, so as a D-lineman you want to come off the block, and that guy is right there to seal you out of the play, so you kind of want to hold him up and let the linebackers -we have good linebackers - let them fit off of that and find the quarterback."
-Linebacker Malik Jenkins believes the defense made a noticeable jump against Kansas for one reason: Effort.
"We had a way higher sense of urgency out there, just running to the ball with more effort, and tackling. I think that's what the whole group of linebackers improved on," he said. "It's just about effort, and just doing everything with a higher sense of urgency. Everything was based off of a higher sense of urgency last week."
-"I think it was a huge wakeup call for the whole defense. Like, we're so much more capable of doing way more, and if we just go out there and give it our all the whole four quarters all game and run with an extra burst of effort, we're going to be fine. We're going to be good."
-As for practice this week, Jenkins believes the linebackers have to do the best job they have all year in reading K-State's blockers, whether they be O-linemen, fullbacks, or tight ends.
"We have to see the pulls. If we don't see the pulls, it's gonna go out of the gate every single time. It's just emphasizing reading our keys, reading the fullbacks, reading the tight ends, reading everything. That's what we've been emphasizing on, because they pull a lot of linemen."