How long does it take a college football player to get used to the attention and responsibilities that go along with being a first-time starter?
Kansas State center Adam Holtorf thinks he knows the answer: two games.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say there were some nerves and fears stepping in,” Holtorf said, “but those fears are gone. I feel pretty comfortable.”
Holtorf is qualified to answer the question after all he has been through since the start of preseason practices. A 6-foot-4, 293-pound sophomore from Seward, Neb., he was elevated to starter without warning last month when returning starter Reid Najvar surprisingly chose to forgo his senior season, reportedly due to concussion issues.
The plan was for Holtorf to study under Najvar for another year and take over as a junior. Now he had to grow up fast. The Wildcats were counting on him to step in and make all the blocking calls in the middle of their offensive line.
It helped that he had a month to adjust to the new role, but his first game felt like a roller coaster. K-State played well and beat Central Arkansas 55-19, and the Wildcats threw for 333 yards. But their running game was stuck in neutral.
Offensive linemen pride themselves on paving the way for a strong rushing attack. Failing to do that in the opener bothered Holtorf and K-State’s entire line.
Improving their run blocking was a priority all week leading up to the Charlotte game, and it was obvious they were motivated at kickoff. Holtorf and company opened up big holes and K-State rushed for 304 yards in a 55-7 victory.
“It felt really good for every offensive lineman, because we came in wanting to run the ball better than we did against Central Arkansas,” Holtorf said. “Coming away, I think we ran for 304 yards and that felt good. I think we came out and did what we wanted to do in the run game.”
“The biggest thing that I felt I did better from Week 1 to Week 2 was being more physical at the point of attack,” Holtorf said. “Against Central Arkansas, there were some blocks I didn’t finish that I should have, and I think I did a better job coming out last week. I was just being more physical finishing the blocks down field.”
College football is a next-man-up culture, and no K-State position group embraces that philosophy more than its offensive line. When a starter is unable to play, the backup is expected to come in and maintain the same level of play.
That has been evident with Holtorf filling in for Najvar, and then with Nick Kaltmayer stepping in for Dalton Risner at right tackle. Both looked good against Charlotte.
“The program does a great job preparing people for jobs like that and depth,” K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said. “We knew (Holtorf) would be fine taking over the role like that, just beacuase he has been preparing for this for three years. He was ready to go.”
Risner is expected to return against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Either way, K-State coaches will expect the offensive line to produce.
Now that Holtorf has had two games to adjust to his new role, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett