If not for Charlie Dickey, Scott Frantz isn’t sure where he would be.
He’s not sure he would be in line to make his 42nd consecutive start for Kansas State’s offensive line come Saturday. In fact, he’s not sure he even would be playing college football, period. Dickey, who recruited Frantz to Manhattan, taught his former pupil not only the fundamentals of offensive line play; he taught Frantz how to compete at the highest level in the NCAA.
“Coach Dickey did amazing things for me,” said Frantz, the Wildcats’ fifth-year senior stalwart at left tackle. “He’s a technician. He set the foundation for me for four years and taught me 90% of the stuff that I know about offensive line play. I thank him so much for that.”
But Dickey no longer coaches Frantz, nor at K-State. He’ll be on the opposing sideline Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in his first season as Oklahoma State’s offensive line coach.
Frantz can’t wait.
If he sees Dickey during pregame warmups, he plans to talk. And if he happens to end up close to his former coach at the end of a play on the Cowboys’ sideline, Frantz said he plans to “chirp” in Dickey’s direction. He expects the good-natured razzing to go both ways.
He learned that from the last four years of being around Dickey on gamedays.
“When we were on the sideline and our defense was on the field, he was always yelling at opposing offensive linemen, (like), ‘Holding! Holding!’ trying to get a flag,” Frantz said. “So I can’t wait to hear him yelling at me, trying to get a holding call this Saturday.”
Dickey’s knowledge of K-State — he served as the Wildcats’ offensive line coach for the entirety of Bill Snyder’s second stint as head coach from 2009 to 2018 — and the Wildcats’ insight on Dickey’s blocking schemes and philosophies offers a fascinating game-within-the-game matchup to keep an eye on Saturday, which is the Big 12 opener for No. 24 K-State after a week off.
Chris Klieman conceded Dickey’s intel on his former players “probably is very advantageous” for the Cowboys.
“All the calls are different,” said Klieman, in his first year as K-State’s head coach. “Some of the line stunts and line things you talk about at the line of scrimmage, all that has changed. So that’s not anything that we can concern ourselves with.”
It didn’t concern Frantz, either.
“But I guarantee he’ll be in that defensive line meeting room and be like, ‘Hey, No. 74 does this well; he doesn’t do this as well,’” said Frantz, referring to his jersey number. “I’m sure he’ll just go down the line of offensive linemen and tell them what we do well and some things that we struggle at. But this offensive line has made so many improvements since Dickey last saw us, I wouldn’t say I’m nervous about him.”
Those strides upfront, Frantz said, mainly boils down to experience. The Wildcats’ starting five has combined for a whopping 109 starts, highlighted by Frantz’s 41 and followed by right guard Tyler Mitchell (33) and center Adam Holtorf (28). But Frantz said it also helps that K-State has made such a seamless transition — to this point, anyway — under new offensive line coach Conor Riley. Just don’t ask Frantz to describe what makes Riley’s coaching style different from Dickey’s. Offensive line play is so complicated and technique-oriented, Frantz said, it would take him “hours” to properly explain.
Simply put, there’s only one thing outsiders need to know.
“Offensive line play is offensive line play,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re lined up and you’ve got to block the guy in front of you. So a lot of it doesn’t change.”
The flip side: K-State DL's knowledge of Dickey's mindset
In Frantz’s mind, the “Dickey versus his former players” storyline won’t end up playing too prominent a role in Saturday’s outcome. He doesn’t even plan to talk to K-State’s defensive players all that much this week.
“I’m sure he’s teaching his offensive linemen the same exact way as he taught us here, and our defensive line knows that,” Frantz said. “So I wouldn’t read too much into it. I know Trey Dishon has been making some jokes throughout the week, talking to Oklahoma State’s offensive linemen about Dickey.”
Klieman, in a similar vein to Frantz, said the Wildcats’ defensive linemen being familiar with Dickey’s schemes doesn’t necessarily mean as much as the one-on-one component.
“A call or a term doesn’t give you a great advantage if you can’t beat the guy in front of you,” Klieman said. “Obviously, people change things and it’s a different system that he’s going to now. It’s still comes down to who the better player is that you’re going across from. So it’s still going to come down to who’s best in the trenches.”
On film, linebacker Daniel Green said Oklahoma State's offensive line appears to be stout.
"They’re an aggressive front, they play together, make key blocks, and when they get you, they know how to drive," said Green, a redshirt freshman. "They’re just a great O-line and they’re very experienced, so they know what they’re doing out there.”
Oklahoma State's physicality, Green said, reminded him of what K-State faced off against in its previous outing against Mississippi State.
"Upfront, they both like to put their nose into you, drive you off the ball," he said. "So from that standpoint, (those) probably would be the most similarities that we see.”
But he sees more between the Cowboys' line and the Wildcats of recent seasons. Little things here and there are hints.
"Inside zone, stretch plays, they kind of look similar (to K-State)," Green said. "But I feel like their head coach and offensive coordinator, they have their own way of running their offense. So every now and then you might see a stretch play that kind of looked like stuff we did.”
Green then echoed Frantz and Klieman: while the Wildcats have an idea of what the Cowboys' line will throw at them, they still have to do their jobs.
"Coaches can coach, but players have their own style," Green said. "So it’s really a new opponent. We have to scout them out and try to break them down the best that we can. We know that Coach Dickey is over there. We’ve got love for him, but we can’t really know what they’ll run for sure. But we know they’re going to be physical and dialed in, because Coach Dickey does a good job of teaching."
Frantz is eager for all the talk to end. He's just ready to play.
"Both teams are just going to go out there and try to fight it out," he said, "and see who comes out on top.”