Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Dana Dimel Q&A

Dana Dimel has one of the most interesting backgrounds of anyone on Kansas State’s coaching staff. The co-offensive coordinator, who also oversees running backs and tight ends, is just about to finish his fourth straight season at the helm of K-State’s offense.

Before that, though, he was a head coach at Wyoming and Houston and the associate head coach at Arizona. He is a K-State grad and got his coaching start with the Wildcats, originally serving as a graduate assistant and becoming offensive coordinator in 1995. He was with Bill Snyder at the start of his first successful run at K-State and came back for his second.

He has coached a Heisman Trophy finalist (Collin Klein), he has helped K-State reach two Cotton Bowls (1997 and 2012), he is about to coach in the Fiesta Bowl and he recruited Rob Gronkowski. He went 22-13 in three years at Wyoming. He went 0-11 in his second year at Houston and only lasted three seasons with the Cougars.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, interesting.

On Sunday, at a Fiesta Bowl news conference, he talked about his background, his dream of following Snyder as K-State’s head coach, the Wildcats’ 11-win season and the upcoming game against Oregon.

What does it mean to you, personally, to be part of K-State’s recent success?

It’s been very nice. Nice personally to be back with my family, back at Kansas State, where I went to school. To be around the community, where I know so many people, to see them as they raise their families, it’s home for me. I’ve spent 16 years of my life in Manhattan, Kansas. More than any place else.

Do you want to be a head coach again?

Sure, yeah, absolutely. That is always important for people to want to do that. I have been there and done it a couple times. I enjoyed it and want the challenge again. I always learned to be a good head coach you have to be good at what you are doing right now. So I don’t think about that. I just try to be the best running backs, tight end, fullback coach and offensive coordinator that I can be.

Do people around campus ever talk to you about the possibility of being the head coach at Kansas State?

Sure, absolutely. But it’s just something you don’t talk about that much. Obviously that would be a goal of mine. That is something I would want to happen, and hopefully someday it does happen. But right now let’s just do the best at what we are doing right now. To answer your question very candidly, though, yes — of course.

So that’s a dream of yours?


You want to take over the program when Snyder steps down?

Sure. Absolutely. I think it would be a challenge, but obviously I understand the inner workings of this program. I saw coach come in when we weren’t very successful. So I’ve seen what can make K-State not successful. I’ve been around for the losing years. I’ve also been around here during the transition and around for the positive years. I have seen the whole gambit of what K-State football is about. I have a great understanding of what it takes to win here, but also what not to do here.
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: K-State’s defense will stick with fundamentals against Oregon

With Oregon only losing one game this season, it’s easy to sit back and say Kansas State should devise a defensive gameplan similar to the one Stanford used during a 17-14 victory in Eugene.

The Cardinal out-gained the Ducks that night and held Oregon well below its average scoring output. Heck, it scored at least 42 points in each of its other 11 games. Stanford must have been onto something, right?

Perhaps, but K-State coaches aren’t thinking that way.

“That would be a game that a lot of people would say, ‘You could feed off of that,’” coach Bill Snyder said. “But all teams are different. Our defense is different from Stanford’s defense and vice-versa. You have to be careful. You can’t say, ‘They did it, so we can do it.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

So what will K-State’s defensive strategy be against Oregon? Snyder runs far too tight a ship to come out and diagram his plans with the media. But after talking to Snyder and defensive coordinator Tom Hayes, it is clear they won’t be using any brand new schemes or formations.

“We are not going to gimmick and do a bunch of crazy things,” Hayes said. “Several of these teams that have gotten in trouble against Oregon gimmicked and got caught out of gaps – woosh, 50, 70 right over the top – misreads, misexecution if you will. Hopefully we stay away from that.”
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Extra practices allow Daniel Sams to focus beyond Oregon

This time of year is always important for young players on the Kansas State football team.

Whether they are backups or members of the scout team, bowl practices are their time to shine. With a month between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, coach Bill Snyder likes to give young players on his roster extra reps. Though his top priority is preparing for Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, he also wants to prepare for the 2013 season by putting inexperienced players in new situations.

Those who take advantage of the exposure have a leg up in spring practices and a better chance of starting in the fall. Remember, at this time two years ago veteran players raved about Arthur Brown and B.J. Finney. They have been starters ever since.

“Taking advantage of being on the scout team definitely helped me leapfrog into the position I am in now,” Finney said. “I know a lot of guys are working extremely hard there now and they are going to do great for us.”

Daniel Sams wants to make a similar jump next year. The redshirt freshman quarterback is Collin Klein’s main backup, and he wants to be the starter next season. So he is practicing with a purpose.

“I’m getting a lot of plays that Collin usually runs,” Sams said. “It’s been like that. A lot of blitz pickups, checking into the right protection. We are getting ready to get the young guys involved.”
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Marcus Mariota makes Oregon’s offense go

At the heart of Oregon’s fast-paced, high-powered offense is Marcus Mariota, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Hawaii.

He is a dual-threat athlete who just finished an impressive season with the Ducks. Mariota threw for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 69.9 percent of his passes. The 6-foot-4, 211-pounder also averaged seven yards per carry while rushing for 690 yards and four touchdowns.

If not for sharing the spotlight with sensational running back Kenjon Barner all year, Mariota might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate this season.

For those reasons, some have compared him to Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

“I feel like if there’s one similarity I feel that it’s we’re both athletic,” Mariota told the Oregonian earlier this week.

Though both players are effective in several different areas and have put up good stats, I’m not sure that’s fair. They both get the job done, sure. But they are different quarterbacks.

Mariota is faster than Klein, and likes to throw quickly into plays and keep Oregon’s offense moving. Klein is a more powerful runner than Mariota, and prefers to let plays develop before throwing downfield or choosing a hole to run through. Mariota reminds me more of West Virginia’s Geno Smith.
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Commercials

Oregon football coach Chip Kelly starred in his very own UPS commercial this year. You’ve probably seen it already — Logistics! — but if you haven’t you can check it out above.

I’m not the biggest fan of those UPS commercials. It takes lots of work behind the scenes to do anything. Other than calling that hard work logistics, UPS is not doing anything special. But Kelly did a nice job and scored some face time and exposure for his offense.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has been in commercials before, too. Check this one out.

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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Chris Harper, then and now

If Chris Harper wasn’t the best quote on the Kansas State football team, I would expect him to use the most popular line from high school year books — “What a long, strange trip it’s been” — to describe his college football career.

Because, well, it would be true. Coming out of Northwest High in Wichita, he committed to K-State until James Franklin left for Maryland. Then he de-committed and signed with Oregon. Then he played quarterback for the Ducks, then he played receiver for the Ducks and became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season.

Then he decided he was homesick. Then he liked the fact that Bill Snyder was coming out of retirement. Then he transferred to K-State, saying he was going to play quarterback. Then he switched to receiver full time during his transfer year on the scout team. Now he is the Wildcats’ top receiver.

Other than wearing the No. 3 at both schools, there weren’t many similarities.

See, that’s one long and strange trip.
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Analyzing K-State’s bowl possibilities

We will know Kansas State’s bowl destination in three days, but that doesn’t mean the Wildcats know (or even have a good idea of) where they will play this postseason.

K-State seems to be in contention for four different bowl games, and how it plays against Iowa State on Saturday will only partially impact its destination. Several games across the nation could impact where K-State goes.

Here is a deeper look at the bowl scenarios currently facing K-State:

Sugar Bowl
Current Odds: Possible.
If K-State beats Iowa State and earns an invitation to a BCS bowl, it will likely end up in the Sugar Bowl. What will it take for the Wildcats to earn a BCS bid? A lot. There are only two at-large bids to BCS bowls to go around as long as Houston remains undefeated and Stanford remains in the top four of the BCS standings. And Alabama will likely take one of them to play in the BCS title game. The next most likely at-large candidates: Michigan, K-State, Boise State and possibly Oklahoma State if it loses in Bedlam. The Wildcats could emerge from that group as the top choice. The Sugar Bowl did send a representative to K-State’s game against Texas A&M. But Michigan and Oklahoma State would be very appealing, too. Houston losing in the Conference USA championship game will boost K-State’s chances.

Fiesta Bowl
Current Odds: Long shot.
The only realistic way K-State can end up in the Fiesta Bowl is if Oklahoma State finds its way into the BCS title game and it chooses to replace the Cowboys with the Wildcats.

Cotton Bowl
Current Odds: Best bet.
Arlington, Texas remains K-State’s most likely destination. The Cotton Bowl loves the idea of inviting the Wildcats, because they haven’t played there in years, their fans travel well and Dallas is one of K-State’s biggest alumni bases. If both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State make BCS bowls, K-State will almost certainly end up in the Cotton Bowl. If Oklahoma State is shutout of the BCS it could end up here based on its head-to-head win over K-State. And Oklahoma could push K-State out if both teams finish 9-3, because it also beat the Wildcats this season. But if the Wildcats finish 10-2, odds are they finish Cotton Bowl or higher.
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