ARLINGTON, Texas — Joel Klatt is not an easy guy to track down for an interview at the Stadium Club in AT&T Stadium at the Fox party following the first day of Big 12 Media Days. Sometimes it’s literally hard to spot him. The bigger challenge is getting an interview. I thought I had it, with maybe 30 minutes or so left until the party ended.
I’d been waiting since the Kansas State guys interviewed him, for sure. Some fantasy guys had next. They said short, but it was longer. That’s fine.
He went to get a drink. Got the drink, but got waylaid. Straight robbery. Not his fault.
I wrote my questions out, because I had lost my voice. Yes, a real thing that happened to me at the first day of Big 12 Media Days. Real amateur hour. But I had written out my questions for Klatt.
So when the robber finally finished, I had about seven and a half minutes to do the interview with the questions I had written down before we got kicked out. Here’s how it went.
Wescott: The biggest key for Sam Ehlinger.
Joel: I would say it’s his continued ability to limit the turnovers. I think he only had six last year.
W: Bruce said compartmentalize from play to play.
J: Right. And they were in 10 one-possession games last year. A big reason why they ended up winning 10 games, not all 10 of those games, but winning 10 games, was the fact that he took care of the ball.
They beat Oklahoma because Kyler didn’t take care of the ball and he did. So that’s absolutely the biggest key.
W: Offensive MVP.
J: Listen, valuable is Sam. Because the quarterback has to be the most valuable. If you take Sam off the board...
W: Maybe that’s too easy. Yeah.
J: Let’s take Sam off the board. The guy I’m most excited about, that I think has the highest ceiling, is Keaontay Ingram.
Every time I watch him, yeah, he’s explosive, he’s tall, he’s... he’s everything I would have wanted to play with, you know, from an offensive skill position. So, Keaontay Ingram.
W: I think ghost cut — Jamaal Charles.
J: Oh yeah, that’s a good call. Slide.
J: I don’t like to think about Jamaal Charles. I got to see that up close —
W: He doesn’t have the speed, but...
J: I got up close and...
W: That cut...
J: Personal. That guy was too good for us.
J: D MVP — Malcolm Roach. Not just because he’s the only healthy star starter in spring ball, but because they constantly talk about and continue to talk about his ability to develop as a leader, and that leadership is so key when you lose eight starters. So it’s not even what he does on the production sheet as much as what he does from a leadership standpoint and bringing all these young guys along, because rest assured, if they play any quality defense at all, they will be a helluva team.
Breakout key or breakout player?
W: Player or players.
J: Marcus Washington, maybe? The freshman, right?
W: Jake Smith?
J: Smith. I’m going to go a different way. Sam Cosmi.
W: Does he qualify?
J: As a breakout? Well, maybe not. But, I think his role is going to be so much more important because he’s moving over to left tackle. I thought he was the most talented offensive lineman last year and so I think he’s probably the biggest key up front. So while that might not be — he was a starter — listen, any one of those young — you could say Keaontay Ingram for that one as well. Those young position players on offense that you could see — wide receivers, running backs...
J: Whittington. That’s a good one. That’s a really good one. Any number of those guys.
W: Cosmi. His ceiling. What is it?
J: Really high. Like first-round draft pick. First-round draft pick. I’m not saying he’s going to be, I’m just saying that I think he has that ceiling. He’s athletic. He can move. He carries 300 pounds about as well as anybody. He carries it like he’s a tailback, you know.
W: What you would want your franchise left tackle to look like.
J: That’s right. That’s right.
W: Breakout defender.
J: What’s the name of the linebacker?
W: McCulloch. Does it have to be him on defense?
J: I think so, because you’ve gotta be strong front to back and inside out. We know that they’re really good at safety. I think they’re going to be pretty good on the defensive line. So at that second level, you need a linebacker to have a big year.
W: Orlando has said that — you have to be strong up the middle.
W: Middle, Rover, deep safety.
J: That’s right. We know they’ve got good safeties. So the biggest question is the second level.
W: Who’s going to play next to McCulloch?
J: I don’t know.
W: Key on offense. One sentence.
J: The biggest key for them — they’re going to be their best if they can be diverse with the tempo that they use on offense. If they can take some games and strangle the clock out with the run game. Sam used in short yardage. Almost similar to what they did with Georgia — just physically beat people up.
W: That’s what they did all year.
J: Right. But, also have another gear where they can go and create big plays with more explosive players where a Power — like Tim Beck has always mentioned — when is a Power going to turn into a 40-yard touchdown instead of just an eight-yard run? The more diversity that they have within their offense, tempo, and skill set — I think that’s the biggest key. If they can stretch that out to where if they want to grind you out, they can. If they want to knock you out, they can as well.
W: Key on defense.
J: Okay, here we go. Key on defense. Bringing along the young players. So they’re going to have to fill eight starting spots, but they do have 22 guys on their defensive depth chart that had four stars or more next to their name in recruiting. So finding that consistency.
W: What about the culture change from Charlie to Tom?
J: I think Tom came in and it was never, if we win, it was when we win.
W: That’s alignment, right?