Aug. 19, 2012
Editor's Note: K-State Sports Extra continues its nine-part look at the 2012 Wildcats with each assistant coach taking an in-depth look at his respective position. Past articles include the quarterbacks, defensive ends and interior defensive line. Today we talk with Coach Charlie Dickey about the offensive line.
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By Mark Janssen
To Charlie Dickey, he'll take age "with" talent every single time. But if only given a choice of age "or" talent, he'll take talent... every single time.
"If players are good, they're good," said the Kansas State offensive line coach. "I learned a long time ago that you play your best players. The only time you worry about playing freshmen and sophomores is when they're not very good."
When Kansas State lines up against Missouri State on September 1, it's likely that going shoulder pad to shoulder pad will be a row of freshman, freshman, sophomore, senior, junior.
"We're excited about this group of kids," said Dickey, K-State's fourth-year coach. "They're young, but they're athletic and they're working hard."
The fixture on the line is Rimington Trophy candidate B.J. Finney at center, who was a 12-game starter last year in his redshirt-freshman season. That puts the former Wildcat walk-on in the same category as past Kansas State centers Nick Leckey and Wade Weibert.
To last year, Dickey said, "He's developed into an outstanding player. He's a good leader and his overall knowledge is much better. Knowing the offense for another year and seeing defenses for a year will mean that he will pick up on things quicker, which can lead to better football play."
Dickey said the first thing that he looks for in a center is someone who can... snap the football.
"That may sound silly and may sound easy, but it's not," said Dickey. "You have to get the ball there quickly and with accuracy. You mix that with understanding the concepts of defenses and being able to make calls makes it a difficult position."
Depth at the center position behind the 6-foot-4, 297-pound Finney will come from a pair of sophomores in Drew Liddle (6-3, 288) and Tomasi Mariner (6-3, 317).
To each side of Finney will be projected starters in Nick Puetz (6-4, 304, Sr.) on the left side and Boston Stiverson (6-4, 3-6, RFr.) on the right side. Depth at guard could come from Mariner, plus Keenan Taylor (6-4, 290, Jr.).
Puetz is a former transfer from Wyoming, who earned his way to be a starter last year when he got the nod the final 12 games of the year.
"He's a tough kid and he's a smart kid," said Dickey. "That experience will be very valuable. It will pay dividends."
Of Stiverson, Dickey echoed, "He has some toughness to him. He's a tough, smart, strong, powerful kid."
Completing the line will likely be Cody Whitehair (6-3, 300, RFr.) and Cornelius Lucas (6-8, 331, Jr.) at right and left tackle, respectively. While Whitehair is a rookie to Big 12 play, Lucas has seen action in 24 games the last two years as a backup lineman and on special teams.
"Cody is a real athletic kid who plays with really good balance and has a natural strength to him," said Dickey. "With Cornelius, it's his third year in the program and it's just been a process of making strides.
"With that height, he can be a good pass blocker," Dickey continued about Lucas. "It's tough to get around someone that tall and with that type of wingspan (78 inches). It's been a process of him learning the system, developing some consistency, plus he's also had some good players in front of him."
Contending for snaps as backup tackles are returnee William Cooper (6-4, 295, Jr.) and community-college transfer Tavon Rooks (6-5, 270, Jr.).
Overall, Dickey said, "We have tough, hard-working kids. They're more athletic than we've had in the past. They're just young guys who need to grow up fast."
Of the projected starters, four are native of Kansans: Finney (Andale), Whitehair (Abilene), Stiverson (Andover) and Nick Puetz (Salina)
Of the 10 linemen in the two-deep, one is a senior, four are juniors, three are sophomores and two are freshmen
Finney's success in 2011 shouldn't have come as a great surprise as he was named K-State's 2010 Red Raider Award as the top contributor on the scout team
Finney won the heavyweight state high school wrestling title as a senior at Andale High School, while he was a second-place finisher as a junior
Smart too: Cooper was valedictorian of his Hayti (Mo.) High School class. Finney is a pre-med major
MEET COACH DICKEY:
Dickey is a graduate of Arizona (1987), where his wife, Lisa, played basketball. His daughter, Tasha, also played basketball at U of A before finishing her career last year at K-State
As a player for Arizona, Dickey had a streak of 1,230 consecutive offensive plays, which included all 840 offensive snaps that the Wildcats played in 1983. He was the team's offensive MVP and a second-team All-Pac 10 selection
Dickey's Division I coaching stops have been at Arizona, Washington and Utah prior to K-State
Dickey has 11 bowl games on his resume
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