K-State's Klein focused on playing QB
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sure he could do it. Easily. Here’s this 6-foot-5 Mack truck with Nureyev’s feet, a guy who runs a 4.7 in the 40-yard-dash, dunks basketballs with ease, and can stop and start on a dime. A dude with the vision of a hawk, the gait of a gazelle, and a mind like a steel trap.
Collin Klein could be anything he wanted to be in the NFL.
Collin Klein wants to play quarterback.
No, no. Check that.
"I know I can play quarterback," says former Kansas State standout, who’ll participate in combine workouts at Indianapolis over the weekend.
And if Team A sits you down and offers you a giant bag of cash to switch to say, tight end?
"I’d tell them exactly what I just told you," Klein replies.
One track. One position. One goal.
"Honestly," Klein continues, "I think people know I’m a quarterback."
Oh, they know it. The trouble is, they can’t come to a consensus as to whether he should stay there at the next level.
"He’s a kid that I root for," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says of Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist this past fall. "He’s a good athlete. But he’s a better football player than he is a natural thrower of the football.
"And the problem for him is, he’s going to be dinged heavily on his lack of throwing ability. Funky motion, questionable accuracy and arm strength."
At Manhattan, it was about the destination, not the journey; nobody cared how Klein moved the chains as long as the train kept rolling.
Pro scouts are notoriously less forgiving. February through April is Nitpicking Season, when the majority of America’s collegiate heroes get taken to the collective woodshed, poked and prodded like so much cattle.
Klein’s mechanics? Red mark.
That hitch that seems to slow his release? Red mark.
Poise in the pocket? Red mark.
The Tim Tebow comparisons are back, and this time, they don’t help. In NFL-speak, ‘Tebow’ is a dirty word. Loosely translated, it means ‘Fast, big, good athlete, can’t pass a lick.’
Klein didn’t win many new admirers during the East-West Shrine Game last month at Tampa, Fla., either. The Colorado native completed just 5 of 13 passes for 43 yards and an interception.
Red mark, red mark, red mark. The more the draftniks see under center, the less they like.
On one hand, a so-called ‘run-first’ quarterback — Klein carried the ball 524 times over the past two seasons at K-State — has never had a fairer shake in the pros, given the success of the pistol formation and read-option schemes utilized in San Francisco, Washington, and, to some degree, Seattle. New Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a spread-formation wizard at the University of Oregon, is expected to integrate a similar scheme in Philadelphia. The NFL is a copycat league, and the read-option is the newest rage.
On the flip side, Mayock counters, Klein isn’t as accurate — or as polished — a thrower as the Niners’ Colin Kaepernick, the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, or the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. And as RG III’s late-season knee injury proved, an option-style quarterback is often one hit away from a season-ending, if not career-ending, setback.
"My whole thing is, when you’re trying to find a Colin Kaepernick and a Russell Wilson, you better start with the fact that he has to be a starting quarterback in the NFL from a pocket perspective," Mayock continues. "I don’t think (Klein) throws the ball well enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Because of that, I think he’s going to slide pretty far down, until the last day."
Klein says he was still suffering from lingering shoulder problems during workouts down in Tampa. Those pains are gone now, which helps.
For most of the winter, he’s been in suburban Denver, subscribing to the strict regimen of performance coach Loren Landow: Run and lift Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; throw four days a week; recondition on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
"I think we made strides," Klein says. "Just trying to get better every day. I mean, it’s a process. Just got to keep moving forward."
The latest wrinkle in that process is Klein’s new quarterbacking tutor — former NFL signal-caller Jake Plummer. Plummer, who played 143 games with Arizona and Denver between 1997-2006, resides in the area and was brought in by Klein’s agent, Peter Schaffer, to help smooth out some of the rougher edges.
Klein’s noticed the difference, too; Plummer’s helped to get his footwork more consistent, especially on dropbacks, and quickened up his release.
"I feel like I’ve made some improvement," Klein allows, "and it’s just another step in the journey."
That journey runs through Indiana for drills and interviews over the next few days. After that, it’s back to Colorado, then over to K-State’s pro day in The Little Apple on March 12.
"He's such a good kid. I'm having fun working with him," Plummer recently told the Denver Post. "And he makes all the throws, and he can do some things other guys can’t."
Such as catch the ball, if needed. In 2009, Klein snared six passes for 38 yards and a score. In fact, his first offensive touchdown in college came as — get this — a receiver.
So if Team B asked you to take a few snaps in the slot …
"I’ve been told to play quarterback," Klein says. "I can make everybody around me better, like a quarterback needs to. And I love the position."
Which is fine. Trouble is, in the NFL, you’d better make darn sure love is a two-way street.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com