If Kansas State football players had any doubts about the big-play abilities of Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill, coach Bill Snyder erased them with seven words.
“He’s the fastest guy in the world,” Snyder said earlier this week.
Hyperbole? Of course. But it’s not that much of an exaggeration.
Hill ran 100 meters in 10.19 seconds two years ago. It was the nation’s fastest time in 2012. That same year, he sprinted 200 meters in 20.14 seconds, a time that would have finished sixth at the London Olympics. Oklahoma State sent out information this week claiming that Hill’s 200 time ranks first in college football history, while his 100 time ranks fourth.
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Academic issues sent Hill to Garden City Community College, but he’s now showing off his speed for the Cowboys. Not only does he serve as Oklahoma State’s primary returner, taking two kickoffs to the end zone, coach Mike Gundy asks him to line up at receiver and running back. He is averaging 150.2 all-purpose yards.
“He is extremely fast and explosive,” K-State linebacker Will Davis said. “He makes guys miss that are two feet away just by running by them. We have to prepare for that as a defense and just be able to, hopefully, contain him.”
The process begins by deciding how to handle kickoffs, the only time K-State coaches know where he will line up. Most teams have chosen to kick away from him or give up small amounts of field position with lofted and directional kicks. Others have kicked to him and paid the price.
Snyder said he will wait until game time to decide his exact strategy.
“There’s no doubt about his skill and his speed,” Snyder said. “But they do a pretty nice job as far as protecting him, as well. You still have to deal with that. Those other 10 guys are doing something as well to give him a chance. They’re motivated, because they know he has a chance to go the distance anytime he gets the ball in his hand.”
Kicker Matthew McCrane thinks touchbacks will be important.
“We will be trying to kick past them or kick away from them,” McCrane said. “If we can do that and just kick touchbacks, especially here in Kansas with the wind, that is what we are looking for.”
K-State’s defense isn’t sure what it will need to look for. It simply knows it will constantly be looking. Oklahoma State moves Hill around more than any other player on its roster. He has caught a pass in all seven games and taken a handoff in six. Last week against West Virginia, he rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries and caught three passes for 26 yards.
The Wildcats are preparing for everything, even Hill lining up at quarterback. They don’t want to get beat by the fastest guy in the world.
“From a schematic standpoint you always have to be aware of where he is on the field,” Davis said. “He can line up at receiver, he can line up in the slot, he can line up at running back. They are always trying to get him the ball, so you always have to (be) aware of where he is on the field.”
Oklahoma State at No. 11 Kansas State
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
TV: ABC (Chs. 2, 9)
Other story lines
▪ NO TURNOVERS: K-State quarterback Jake Waters has made good decisions this season. He hasn’t lost a turnover in his last four games.
▪ NOVEMBER SUCCESS: Bill Snyder seems to be at his best in November. Since 1991, the Wildcats have gone 51-18 under Snyder in November.
▪ DON’T SLEEP ON THE BACKUP: Daxx Garman has played well since coming on in relief of the injured J.W. Walsh, throwing for 1,735 yards and 11 touchdowns.