Kansas State defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo already has told his players they need to be prepared to see the field “a lot” this fall. But Tuiasosopo was quick to note that raw numbers aren’t what he’s aiming for.
“I’m interested in quality, not quantity,” Tuiasosopo said in a post-practice interview Monday. “What good is it for him to play 50 snaps a game if you’re only getting, whatever, 20 quality snaps out of him? So my whole thing is, our work is toward quality snaps. Playing at a high level, high speed, playing fast — all the above.”
In terms of per-game participation, Tuiasosopo said that might mean his players average “maybe” 30 snaps a contest. Perhaps 40. But again, focusing solely on a total is to lose sight of the goal in Tuiasosopo’s mind.
“Those guys have just got to bring quality snaps,” he said.
In turn, Tuiasosopo hopes that means opposing offenses take notice of his group this fall.
“I hope they see that we get off the ball,” he said. “I hope they see that we can play and make plays in the backfield. The biggest thing if I was an opposing quarterback is man, when I turn on the tape, are these guys playing hard? That’s the thing that if I was a quarterback (I want to see). Like, ‘Hey, these guys bring it every snap.’”
But to do that, the Wildcats will need to be fresh. That’s where a deep rotation comes into play. Just as last season, one starting spot already is nailed down in the form of Trey Dishon. Jordan Mittie and Joe Davies are battling to start beside him. Beyond those three, however, Tuiasosopo said he’s seeing good things.
“You count on a young man like Drew Wiley, who is doing a wonderful job here in camp,” Tuiasosopo said. “Eli Huggins has made a move. He quite possibly could have had the best camp of the entire room. And then you have a young man like Jaylen Pickle who’s really coming along.”
Tuiasosopo raved about Pickle specifically. A redshirt freshman, Pickle was a four-year letterwinner at Cimarron High in Cimarron. Rivals rated him as the third-best player — regardless of position — in the state of Kansas in the 2018 class. As a senior, he tallied 50 tackles, including four for loss, on his way to honorable mention all-state honors from both the Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle.
Pickle, Tuiasosopo said, is a player the Wildcats are “relying and counting on” to contribute this fall.
Knowing the game, and the interplay between the interior and edge linemen, is half the battle for Pickle and the other youthful tackles.
“A lot of it to me is just understanding the play,” Tuiasosopo said. “I think (defensive ends) Coach (Buddy) Wyatt alluded to it a minute ago: Those are two different animals, the defensive ends and inside tackles.”