April 12, 2008

Prince seeing progress from Wildcats

Perhaps this is a good sign for Kansas State fans anxious to get a look at the Wildcats in the spring game next weekend: As the team entered its 11th spring practice on Saturday, Ron Prince had to force himself to be in a bad mood. Through two weeks the third-year head coach has measured the progress of a squad dabbling in a no-huddle offense and trying to stiffen on defense while breaking in new bodies on special teams.

The early forecast for the spring game on April 19: Pleasant.

"I'm artificially in a bad place today," Prince said as his team grouped for stretching exercises in pads shortly before noon. "I've decided to be in a bad mood toward the kids defensively. They've done a pretty good job. It'd be a grave mistake for us to pat ourselves on the back. I see improvement in every area defensively, but I told the kids today I'm not going to be impressed with anything they did defensively, so to just be prepared for that."

A defense that features five starters from a unit that ranked eighth in the Big 12 a year ago continues to make strides behind stronger play from its defensive tackles. Prince said senior Brandon Balkcom not only has gained strength, but "he's moving better than since he's been here."

An offense that last season finished sixth in points and eighth in total yards looks to move a little quicker in the fall, as well. With junior record-setting Josh Freeman back with solid tools and proven passing ability, Prince plans to put the offense in his leader's hands in much the way league counterparts Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing have at Missouri and Kansas.

At least one player indicated a no-huddle approach was in the works and Prince agreed such a system could offer an avenue to give Freeman even more command than a year ago.

"There's a way mechanically to do some things," Prince said. "We've done them in the past. (Freeman) has shown that he has the arm strength and ability to handle all the throws on the field. It would be nice to have him in a position to take advantage of the defensive alignments and that might even include running the ball more. I know he's anxious to show the full spectrum of all the things he can do.

"Like I've told him since he arrived, a lot of that (depends upon) the group around him and how versatile they are to pace how versatile we can use him. I feel better about our ability to do that."

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