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Monday, July 28, 2014

Lockett stays locked in during freshman season

BY KELLIS ROBINETT
The Wichita Eagle

MANHATTAN — If he had a different last name, Tyler Lockett's freshman season at Kansas State would be considered a surprise.

When the wide receiver signed with the Wildcats out of Tulsa's Washington High last winter, he considered himself an underdeveloped talent too skinny to make an immediate impact at K-State. He stated his desire to redshirt.

His expectations for his first year in Manhattan included working with the scout team and adding muscle in the weight room.

But his coaches had different plans. As they watched him run routes and return punts, they saw flashes of his father, Kevin, and his uncle, Aaron. Both are former standout K-State receivers, and Kevin is still the school's career receiving leader.

"He follows after his father and his uncle," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "He really wants to do well. More importantly than that, he wants to do all the things that you have to do in order to perform well on and off the field."

With that type of family tree and natural talent on his side, coaches told Lockett to forget about redshirting near the end of August. They wanted him to see game action right away.

Eight games into his college career, it's easy to see why. Lockett is on his way to being a standout player himself. He has caught 15 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns on top of returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. He is so respected throughout the Big 12 that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops refused to kick to Lockett against the wind last week.

Looking back, coaches and fans aren't surprised. This is the third time Snyder has found success with a Lockett on the roster. Lockett, though, didn't see this coming. It wasn't until he put trust into his faith and his father's advice that he began having success.

"Even going into the season, the first thing I wanted to do was redshirt," Lockett said. "But when I got here, I was just like, 'I'm going to come out here, leave it in God's hands, and give it all I've got.'"

With Brodrick Smith and Sheldon Smith missing games for unspecified reasons, Lockett is a fixture in K-State's lineup. He will likely be in the running for freshman All-America honors at the end of the season.

"He's a great athlete and he does a good job at what he does," said defensive end Jordan Voelker. "He's a good role player already at the young age that he is. He just came in is doing his thing and is providing for this team."

His father and uncle wanted Lockett (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) to experience college football his own way and didn't tell him what to expect playing for Snyder. He says they didn't push him toward K-State in the recruiting process, either.

Now that he's there, he does turn to them for pointers, though. All three talk after every game.

"My dad observes the game. He knows the game. He's been on the field. So watching isn't a problem for him," Lockett said. "When I'm out there he sees everything and I'm pretty sure he'll tell me some of the things I need to work on this week in practice."

This week, coming off a 58-17 loss to Oklahoma, he will have plenty to focus on, including how to handle a homecoming game. A road trip to No. 3 Oklahoma State is Saturday, which will allow many of his friends and family to make the short drive to Stillwater and watch him play.

Lockett says he isn't worried about who will be in attendance. He is more concerned with how the Wildcats respond from their first loss.

"He's very proud of both his father and his uncle," Snyder said. "Certainly, he doesn't want to let them down and loves the opportunity to compete in the same environment as they did."

Quip of the week — OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden has been teased by several of his teammates and college football announcers this season because of his age. The 28-year old is one of the best, and oldest, players in the country. Bill Snyder, K-State's 72-year old coach, also had some fun with him on Tuesday.

When asked about Weeden, Snyder replied: "He's almost as old as I am."

Doerr honored — K-State punter Ryan Doerr is one of 54 candidates for the Ray Guy Award. Doerr is averaging 39.9 yards on 34 punts.

Thoughts on West Virginia — Snyder welcomed West Virginia to the Big 12 on Tuesday by praising the Mountaineers' program. But he isn't thrilled about making road trips to Morgantown, W.Va.

"I don't like to fly anyplace," Snyder said. "But I think it probably makes sense to have the additional team in the conference. West Virginia is a good team and a good school."

Secondary struggles — After analyzing K-State's loss to Oklahoma, in which Sooner quarterback Landry Jones picked apart the Wildcats for 505 passing yards and five touchdowns, Snyder blamed poor coverage for allowing most of the big plays.

"We played OK up front," Snyder said. "The biggest difficulty was in our second-and third-level defense, which was not as good as you like."

Check Kellis Robinett's K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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