Whitehair solidifies the middle for K-State
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN -- Cody Whitehair isn't the first Kansas State offensive lineman to switch positions during his Wildcat career and he won't be the last.
But few have been more adaptable.
After playing both right guard and tackle as a redshirt freshman, Whitehair settled comfortably into a slot at left guard last season on a veteran K-State line, starting all 13 games and picking up second-team all-Big 12 honors along the way.
With four-year starter B.J. Finney at center and junior Boston Stiverson, who came off an injury to start the last four games at right guard, the Wildcats were set in the middle heading into the 2014 season but in need of two new tackles.
Instead of standing pat and trusting quarterback Jake Waters' blind side to a less experienced player, offensive line coach Charlie Dickey immediately turned to Whitehair for help, moving him to left tackle in the spring. By making the switch permanent in preseason camp, the Wildcats now have a known commodity in place at a critical position.
"That was a big transition for me," Whitehair said following the spring game. "I'm still going to have to keep working at it and it's a tough position to play."
If anyone of the current roster can make that switch, it's Whitehair, a 6-foot-4, 309-pound junior from Abilene.
"Cody is another one of those kids that knows how to work hard," Dickey said. "He is very talented and he puts that talent with hard work and has made himself into a very good offensive lineman."
Whitehair's work ethic and natural ability no doubt have contributed to his versatility, but he also is quick to credit Dickey and Finney for helping guide him through the change.
"It's a variety of things and hard work is probably one of them," he said. "Another thing is coach Dickey has done a great job of helping me really understand the concepts of being a left tackle and what kinds of things go into being a left tackle.
"Also, B.J. Finney was kind of in the same spot, playing tackle and guard and center when he came in through his redshirt year."
While offensive linemen toil in anonymity most of the time, it doesn't take much for the left tackle to fall under a microscope. It is directly tied to his quarterback's well-being.
"It's always one of those things that you're going to get," Whitehair said. "Being a left tackle, if somebody sacks the quarterback, they look at the left tackle.
"But that's the thing you've kind of got to get through, and me and Jake have a pretty good relationship. When the quarterback and the offensive line have a great relationship, that makes it a lot easier."
Besides, Whitehair is uniquely qualified to handle the position.
"He's such a great athlete that it's not an issue," co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said.
Senior wide receiver Curry Sexton, who also teamed with Whitehair at Abilene High School, agreed.
"I think his athletic ability is his biggest asset," Sexton said. "For being a 6-4, 300-pound lineman, he's one of the most athletic guys on the team, pound for pound.
"I think anything Cody is asked to do, Cody can do because he's naturally gifted and he's really good at his craft. He works hard, he studies hard and he has a good coach."
Dickey is equally confident that Whitehair is the answer at left tackle.
"I think he's going to be one of the best linemen in the Big 12 if he continues to work on it and respects the process of what it takes to be great," Dickey said.