MANHATTAN — As a redshirt freshman defensive back, it would only make sense for Wayne Jones to turn to senior teammate Denzel Goolsby for pointers.
Goolsby, Kansas State's fifth-year senior safety, knows the drill, has been through his share of Big 12 battles and surely could teach his younger teammate a thing or two.
"He's a senior, so just learning from him, everything," said Jones, who will start at strong safety alongside Goolsby on Saturday when the Wildcats play host to Nicholls in their 6 p.m. season opener at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. "We watched film (Monday) night and I just followed his steps a lot, stuff like that."
But before anybody tags Goolsby, the veteran free safety, as strictly the teacher in this relationship, take a listen first to new K-State head coach Chris Klieman.
"I think Wayne might know as much about football as anybody we have on defense," said Klieman, who before becoming a hugely successful head coach at North Dakota State, served as the Bison's defensive coordinator. "Wayne is just somebody that jumped out to me right away in the spring — a real cerebral guy that just gets the game.
"He's one of those guys that is a football junkie and understands it. I think it will help having Denzel, who has played a bunch of football, to calm his nerves a little bit or things, but from the standpoint of understanding what we're doing defensively, I think they're all pretty equal coming in because none of them knew what our systems were about."
Jones, a 6-foot, 205-pounder from Owasso, Okla., might even be a step ahead of the pack.
"What's really putting him ahead of everybody else is just his knowledge of what we're doing and his ability to communicate what we're doing and his ability to get everyone on the same page," safeties coach Joe Klanderman said. "I bet if you asked anybody that's on the field, 'Who do you look to on the field to get things going?' and to a man they'd all say Wayne Jones."
Goolsby, who has played in 35 career games with 20 starts, agreed that picking up the new defense under Klieman, coordinator Scottie Hazelton and Klanderman, has been a two-way street.
"I think it goes both ways," Goolsby said. "I've been in big games before and been able to have experience on the field, so that definitely has a place and I've been able to share some things with him.
"But he does a great job of seeing the field, so he'll kind of share what he's seeing on his side. I think we just kind of feed back off of each other."
Jones, who appeared in two games last season — NCAA rules allow for four without burning a redshirt year — doesn't seem overwhelmed by the responsibility of helping direct the secondary.
"I don't feel like they've stressed me a lot," he said of the defensive coaches. "I just feel like I took it upon myself to want to learn the system as best as I could and be the best player on the field that I could be."
Jones said his redshirt season was typical of most true freshmen in that he spent his time "just learning, trying to get bigger, stronger and faster. Trying to learn the speed of the game, things like that."
One thing he came to appreciate last season was the value of hard work.
"I felt like I had a hard work ethic in high school," he said. "When I came to K-State it kind of woke me up, so I feel that was the biggest thing — to work hard."
But it wasn't strictly hard work and football IQ that got Jones on the field so early in his career.
"He's got great short-area quickness, great snap to his body," Klanderman said. "He does some of the run fit stuff really well."
Jones also has helped the 22-year-old Goolsby, who is finally healthy after battling injuries all last season, feel young again.
"It's funny because I am one of the older guys on the team and he's so young," Goolsby said with a chuckle. "It's kind of like having an old dog and then getting a new puppy with it.
"So all of a sudden I was sitting there feeling achy, and now there's Wayne and I'm feeling loose and rejuvenated. He helps me play faster and I'm really excited about playing with him."