The buzz is gone. So is the hype, and the newness of it all.
All that’s left now is the work.
And that’s just fine with Kansas State defensive end Tanner Wood.
“One year later, I’m a lot more mature, a lot more comfortable,” Wood said. “Our summer was great, our workouts where high-tempo, high-intensity the whole time, so I feel like we’re ready. Feel like I’m ready.”
Wood has had an entire year to get ready for this season — the Conway Springs product and 2012 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year redshirted last year after a record-breaking career for the Cardinals in which he made the biggest name for himself on the offensive side of the ball.
As a senior, his 659 rushing yards and nine touchdowns against Chaparral in 2012 was the third-best single-game rushing yardage total in national high school history and set the Kansas record.
The future of his college career, however, lies with what his body seemingly was built to do at the major-college level. At 6-foot-5 and up to around 250 pounds, the Wildcats want him coming off the edge and using his speed to chase down quarterbacks. In high school, Wood was a standout linebacker.
“Tanner’s done a great job transitioning to defensive end because that not really what he’s ever been used to playing,” K-State defensive ends coach Blake Seiler said. “He’s still learning the position, still learning about playing with his hand in the ground and reacting to playing at this level and playing at this speed. But he has the talent to do it.”
Wood’s first year of college was a series of tests, on and off the field, that served well to prepare him for the next four seasons. First, there was going against the first-team offense every day as a member of the scout team.
“I learned a lot about footwork and hand placement,” Wood said. “My hip mobility is a big thing, learning hand placement against the run is a big thing.”
Off the field, the rigors of not only classwork but the demands of year-round preparation for football were an eye-opener.
“The class and football balance was probably the toughest part, actually,” Wood said. “That’s a lot of work. There’s no way around it.”
Seiler oversaw the transition and praised Wood’s ability to adapt.
“In high school it’s football season, and then there’s the offseason and you go do whatever, you play basketball, you play track,” Seiler said. “Here, it’s non-stop. Tanner had a great spring for us. He worked hard this summer and I know he’s been refining fundamentals and techniques we’ve been working on.”
One thing K-State is in sore need of at defensive end is depth, which could create an opportunity for Wood if he’s able to show the coaching staff he’s ready to be on the field. The Wildcats have All-Big 12 pick Ryan Mueller back, along with Marquel Bryant, who became a starter at the end of the year, and Laton Dowling, who played in all 13 games.
Mueller and Dowling are seniors. Bryant is a junior.
“It’s all up to how I do in camp, all up to me showing I’m ready,” Wood said. “I’m listening to what the older guys are telling me and they’ve done a great job of making me better. I think if I perform the way I know I can I have a shot of getting on the field soon.”
KSU FAN APPRECIATION DAY
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan
Cost: Admission is free for fans to watch the final hour of practice