MANHATTAN — Coming into the season, Kip Daily was low on experience. He had played in six games and made one tackle. That’s it. No one, not even his coaches, could predict how he would handle the role of starting cornerback.
That uncertainty has already disappeared.
Daily, a senior from College Station, Texas, is coming off a breakthrough game in which he intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown. He was named Big 12 defensive player of the week and is heading into Saturday’s game at Texas overflowing with confidence.
The mental boost comes at the perfect time for a player who has never made a significant contribution in a Big 12 game before.
“I feel like I needed to get my feet wet the first couple games,” Daily said. “But I’m a lot more comfortable now. (Defensive coordinator Tom) Hayes keeps telling me to play with more confidence. I’m just reading keys and playing with confidence. I feel like that helped me a lot.”
Daily has shown positives in all three games. He has made 16 tackles, two highlight plays and provided solid pass coverage for a secondary that needed it. With the departures of former starters Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman, the Wildcats had no choice but to ask for big contributions from new faces.
Overall, K-State coach Bill Snyder describes the defense as a “work in progress,” but Daily has helped it hold opponents to a respectable 181.3 passing yards, a number that ranks fourth in the Big 12 and 45th nationally.
He thought he was good enough to be a starter. Now he knows he is.
“I have been waiting to step in and play so I have been preparing and everything,” Daily said. “Preparation brings confidence, so I wasn’t really worried too much about filling their shoes. I was just worried about playing my game and filling the role I am in now.”
Daily used to consider himself strictly a man-to-man corner, now he is a “more diverse” defender capable of playing zone, lining up deep or near the line of scrimmage.
His teammates weren’t surprised when he made big plays against Massachusetts.
“He is growing tremendously every day,” linebacker Mike Moore said. “Every day he is getting better. Every day he is getting faster. Every day he is picking up on the game. Coach Hayes is teaching him the techniques to jump on balls. I think Kip is transforming into a great cornerback.”
Daily will need to perform at a high level against Big 12 competition to meet that expectation. He thinks he is ready. Motivation won’t be a problem on Saturday. He said he secured 20 tickets for family and friends making the drive from College Station to Austin.
He has never played a full game in front of them before. It will be a special moment for him. If he continues to play the way he did last week, it could be a memorable moment, too.
“I’ve been going in with the same attitude every week,” Daily said. “That won’t change, especially going through conference now. We are playing for keeps now. It doesn’t really matter who we play now. It matters how we play.”