Ketwaun Frank better than ever in 2012

You’d think it was a play that Ketwaun Frank would just as soon forget.

Frank focused in on making a tackle on Eastern Oregon running back Kevin Sampson near the Oredigger sideline. Sampson, doing his best Barry Sanders impersionation, made a double move that almost took Frank out of his shoes before the star Mountaineer went the rest of the way on his 23-yard touchdown, The classic angle breaker came during Eastern Oregon’s 31-15 win over Tech last Sept. 3.

“He got me. He got me,” Frank says a year later, shaking his head. “Coach (Chuck) Morrell rewinded that a few times in film room and just laughed about it.”

Frank, who is entering his senior season as a starting cornerback for the Orediggers, is hardly the only person to get faked out by Sampson, who was one of the top players in the NAIA.

Still, he says that play bothered him. It was hard to swallow.

“It was because I gave up a touchdown,” Frank says. “When you give up a touchdown as a DB, it don’t matter if you miss a tackle or give up the deep ball, it stays with you.”

Frank, though doesn’t hide from that moment, and he doesn’t try to forget it.

Actually, as the Orediggers ready for Saturday’s season opener against the same Eastern Oregon team, Morrell won’t let Frank forget it.

“Sampson is a great back, but Coach Morrell gave me a few chuckles about that the other day,” Frank says. “He told me he’s going to keep showing me to motivate me. I don’t have a problem with that.”

Frank embraces the “M” word.

“Motivation,” he says. “You know that that player is not you anymore. You know you’re a better overall player.”

Morrell says Frank is one player who definitely responded to such motivation.

“He has responded so well to me coaching him hard,” Morrell says. “It’s a night-and-day difference from the player he was last year to the player he is now. He’s really become one of our dominant, got-to type players. He has absolutely had a really tremendous fall camp. I expect him to be a real solid defensive back in this league.”

Frank’s improvement is obvious on the practice field, and that has to be exciting for Oredigger fans who saw flashes of greatness from the junior college transfer last season.

“He has some of the best footwork out of anybody on our team,” Morrell says. “His reaction time and his ability to find the football … he has the ability to jump on things without taking a big risk.

Last year he was at times a little bit in consistent. He had a great spring, and he had a tremendous fall camp.”

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Frank has always been fearless on the football field.

That was evident in Tech’s two games against Carroll College last year. Frank made a handful of open-field tackles against the Saints that turned what looked like sure big gains in to short losses or no gain.

“That’s the mindset on the field,” Frank says. “You’ve got to be fearless going up against any opponent, especially if you want to win the game. You can’t be out there scared.

“You’ve got to have a short memory at DB, too,” Frank says. “You get beat one play, they’ll come back at you the next play, so  you’ve got to be ready.”

When Frank came to town, he had to have a cram session to be ready for the Orediggers.

“Last year I got on campus on Aug. 1, and we played on Aug. 27,” Franks says. “So I had 27 days to learn Coach Morrell’s new system.”

Frank got thrown into the fire, so to speak, by returning kickoffs for the Orediggers. He returned 29 kicks last season, averaging 18.8 yards per return. That was fourth best in the conference.

Frank won’t be returning kicks for the Orediggers this year, at least not to start the season. Morrell says that is mostly because he plans on using Frank on just about every snap on defense.

Frank says the move likely was forced by the addition of some speedy, offensive-minded players in 2012.

“We have some great speed back there,” he says with a laugh. “They probably won’t miss me on the kickoff returns.”

Frank started a couple of games at cornerback last season. Whether it was as nickelback or as part of a special package to focus on a particular player, like Carroll’s Matt Ritter, Frank played a ton of big minutes for the Orediggers in 2011.

Then he used the offseason to ready himself for what Oredigger coaches are sure will be a big season.

“I’m out there comfortable now,” Frank says. “There’s no over thinking for me now. I help other people out now.”

Frank also has a new look. His hair is much longer and in dreadlocks.

“It wasn’t this long (last year). I was still rockin’ the flat top,” Frank says. “I was still in my Cali, old-school Will Smith.”

Smith brought that look from Sacramento, where he played two years at Sierra College, a junior college close to home.

Frank, whose friends call him Keke (or Kiki) because that’s what younger members of his family called him when they couldn’t says Ketwaun, started almost every game in two years at Sierra.

His brother, Kevin, started on the other corner.

Before that, Frank played football and baseball at Elk Grove High School, which is just outside of Sacramento.

Frank played short stop and second base — positions perfect for a guy with quick feet — at a high school known for baseball. Frank’s former teammates includes Jake Rodriguez, a highly-touted catcher and first baseman at Oregon State, and Jared Deacon, a catcher at Cal State Fullerton.

Elk Grove is also the high school of Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs.

“I actually have met him,” Frank says of Briggs. “He used to give pregame speeches for our team to motivate us. Lance is a good guy.”

Frank, the middle of five children, came to Tech, along with former Sierra College teammate Ryan Jones, after he was recruited to heavily by assistant head coach Doug Schleeman.

“Hey contacted my junior college coach, and it went from there,” Frank says. “Coach Schleeman talked to me a lot, and I made my way to Butte, America.”

Frank isn’t in any hurry to leave the Mining City, either.

He went home for about a month over the summer, but is back in Butte for the long haul as he majors in network technology.

“Where I’m from there’s a lot going on and other things to worry about,” Frank says. “In Butte everybody is excepting,  and there’s a lot of nice people here.

“To be honest, I don’ t really think about home. There’s a couple people who think about home on the team, but not me. I’m far away from home and I don’t really worry about that any more. I’m excited about where I’m going and where I’m at.”

Frank says he’ll return to Tech next fall to pursue his degree after his football eligibility is gone.

After he gains his degree, Franks says he’s not sure what he’s going to do.

He says he’s not worried about that just yet.

First, he’s getting ready to make sure his entire 2012 season is one nobody would ever want to forget.

“Right now,” Frank says, “I’m just focused on Eastern Oregon and Sept. 1.”