MANHATTAN – In his first three seasons at Kansas State, Cody Whitehair played three positions on the offensive line.
He started at right tackle, then switched to left guard. After that, coaches asked him to move back to right tackle, which he did, only to later convert to left tackle. If he lines up at right guard and center as a senior, he will cover the Wildcats’ entire offensive line.
It’s an intriguing possibility, and Whitehair is ready to do it. But he hopes the days of traveling from one blocking position to another are behind him.
“I am fortunate enough to be playing left tackle,” Whitehair said. “It has been a hard transition. It really has. I am not the tallest guy, by any means. I don’t have the longest arms, by any means. But I feel like the guys on the team really trust me, and that gives me confidence.”
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Whitehair, a senior from Abilene, is poised to finish his college career at left tackle despite lacking prototypical size for the position. Often times, the man charged with protecting his quarterback’s blind side is one of the tallest players on the team, with arms that stretch for days. The bigger the left tackle, the more space he can occupy. In turn, defensive ends have to work harder and longer to get past them and reach the quarterback.
At 6-foot-4 and 309 pounds, Whitehair does not fit that description. For example, the person he replaced – current Detroit Lions blocker Cornelius Lucas – is 6-foot-9.
So it is a testament to Whitehair’s work ethic and aggressive nature that he played well enough as a junior to be earn second-team all-conference honors.
“I try and use my speed and my footwork to really help me out,” Whitehair said, “and maybe be more physical with those guys who don’t like to be as physical. But you also have to keep in mind those guys might be a little faster than you going from guard to tackle. You have to keep your poise and have a two-dimensional approach.”
When K-State coach Bill Snyder moved Whitehair to left tackle, he had one thought in mind: “How do we get the best five (blockers) on the football field.”
“That is one of the reasons we have a lot of guys like Cody play a lot of different positions,” Snyder said. “We are normally seven or eight deep on the offensive line, so you need guys who can play multiple positions. It’s a matter of necessity.
“Is he a better player as a guard than he is as a tackle? I’m not sure that is totally accurate. You could build a case for it, but it all goes back to getting the best five on the field.”
Whitehair had played well at left guard and right tackle, with coaches regularly praising him and former center B.J. Finney as the team’s top linemen, but Snyder thought K-State’s front five would function better with Whitehair on the left.
Results were mixed early, but he thrived as his junior season progressed.
“A couple of those nonconference games, getting the jitters out, I gave up a couple sacks,” Whitehair said. “I wish I could have those back, but I feel more confident now, since I have a full season under my belt at left tackle.”
Experience should not be a problem for K-State’s offensive line. Luke Hayes, Boston Stiverson and Matt Kleinsorge all return with Whitehair from last year’s starting group, with redshirt freshman Dalton Risner taking first-team repetitions with the offense at center. So there should not be much shifting this season.
That’s fine with Whitehair. He has found a home at left tackle.
“I feel more comfortable there now than I ever have,” Whitehair said. “Going up against guys really made a better player last fall.”