Scottie Hazelton hasn’t shaved his beard since April.
That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has met Kansas State’s new defensive coordinator. His signature black-and-gray facial hair extends well below the chin, making him look more like a lumberjack than a football coach.
The look suits him, considering his hobbies include “killing things and going fishing.” But, truth be told, he isn’t married to a long beard. The woman he married is.
“Every once in a while I will shave it and my wife will tell me I look ugly,” Hazelton said. “So I grow it back.”
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In time, K-State football fans hope opposing teams begin to fear the beard as Hazelton puts his stamp on the Wildcats’ defense under new coach Chris Klieman.
He certainly seems up for the challenge. K-State hired Hazelton from Wyoming, where his defenses produced impressive numbers for a Mountain West team. The Cowboys ranked 19th nationally in yards (326.2) and points (22) allowed per game last season. Two years ago, the Cowboys allowed just 17.5 points per game under Hazelton.
Before Wyoming, he spent time as a linebackers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars and was the defensive coordinator at Nevada.
He wasn’t the first choice for his current job. Klieman originally hired Ted Monachino, who left for a coaching position with the Chicago Bears before coaching a game with the Wildcats.
Hazelton thinks fate intervened. Klieman contacted him when he was first hired in Manhattan, but Hazelton was reluctant to leave a stable job that kept his family close to his mother, who lives in Denver. Feelings of regret sank in shortly after. He realized it was a better job and his mother could drive to Manhattan in a little over seven hours. So when the opportunity came open a second time, he remembers saying “this is meant to be.”
“We talked a little about that, it just didn’t work out at that time,” Hazelton said. “It’s one of those things with the family connection it didn’t feel right. But after talking with everybody it became right. It worked out right. We had a long time to think about it, and that generally clarifies things for you.”
Hazelton (45) brings 23 years of coaching experience with him to Manhattan. He is known for his 4-3 defense and cerebral approach on gamedays.
He likes to call football games “chess matches.” As defensive coordinator, it’s his job to outsmart the opposing team’s offensive coordinator. He has managed to do that in many different ways over the years, but he thinks patience is one of his biggest strengths. Ask him about third-down stops, and he will tell you about it’s just as important to win on first down. Ask if he will lean on one coverage scheme more than others, and says the Wildcats better be able to play Cover 1, 2 and 3.
“You have to be able to call them all,” Hazelton said.
K-State showed promise on defense last season. Though it struggled in certain games, it ranked third in the Big 12 in points allowed (25.4 per game) and fourth in yards (403.4 per game). With starters like DaQuan Patton, Justin Hughes, Reggie Walker and Denzel Goolsby returning, Hazelton will have some talent to work with.
Stopping the run and preventing the big play are the two things he stresses most with players. He would much rather sit back and try to defend a methodical 15-play drive than go all out with blitzes and try for home-run plays.
“You do have to take those risks sometimes,” Hazelton said, “but you have to make sure you are in the right situation.”
Here are the three other things he wants to see from K-State’s defense next season: toughness, speed and fun.
It’s obvious Klieman thinks highly of his new defensive coordinator. They worked together briefly at North Dakota State, with Hazelton serving as defensive coordinator while Klieman coached defensive backs. And Klieman has kept an eye on him ever since. Hazelton is the highest-paid assistant coach on K-State’s staff with a base salary of $550,000.
There was some stress involved with having to replace a defensive coordinator, but Hazelton made the transition easier than it could have been.
His beard has a new place to grow.
“Scottie is a tremendous coach and a tremendous person,” Klieman said. “Because the players hadn’t been around much yet and we hadn’t started game-planning and those things, because we are in the recruiting process, it has been pretty seamless in my mind.”