As football season is just a month away, excitement is growing as the Kansas State Wildcats gear up to defend their Big 12 football title.
As mentioned in our preview of the Wildcats’ safeties, Kansas State will have a lot to prove at nearly every position on defense this year. With the graduation of outstanding cornerbacks Allan Chapman and Nigel Malone, who each picked off five passes in the 2012 campaign, the cornerback position is no exception.
One key piece returning for coach Bill Snyder is defensive back Randall Evans. The 6-foot, 190-pound junior had an impressive season in 2012. Playing in the nickelback position, Evans saw action in all of K-State’s games and was a starter for seven of those. He finished out the season with 76 total tackles, good enough to rank third on the team—trailing only Arthur Brown (100) and Jarard Milo (82). While Evans certainly has the skillset to start at cornerback for the Wildcats, it’s more likely that he will remain in the nickelback role, a position where he’s carved out a great niche for himself. Given the spread offenses that the Wildcats will come across in Big 12 play, a solid nickelback will be critical to their success.
With the loss of Malone and Chapman, Kansas State finds itself returning only seven starts at the cornerback position—all of those belonging to Evans. So, with Evans’ role as nickelback all but decided upon, who will fill in for Chapman and Malone? The two most likely candidates are Kip Daily and Dorrian Roberts, both of whom started for the first-team squad in K-State’s spring game.
Like so many of Kansas State’s players, Daily, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, walked onto the squad after playing for a season at community college (Blinn College), before redshirting for his 2011 season with the Wildcats. Last year Daily saw limited action behind the trio of Chapman, Malone, and Evans, appearing in six games and recording only one assisted tackle. Also like so many of K-State’s walk-on players, Daily will have to prove himself in his first year of regular action, appearing this year as a relative unknown.
In a similar spot to his counterpart, the 5-foot-10 168-pound senior Dorrian Roberts finds himself in a position to start after limited experience in the 2012 season. A former Hutchinson Community College walk-on, Roberts has fought his way up the depth chart and now looks to be the Wildcat’s second corner back for the start of the 2013 year. Dorrian showed some of his ability in the spring game, notching 3 tackles in his debut for the purple squad. For the most part, however, Wildcat fans will have to wait until August 30th to get a true feel for how Roberts will fit in at the starting cornerback position.
While little is known about how the pair of Daily and Roberts will fill in, there is comfort for the Wildcat faithful in the comments quarterback Daniel Sams made to Gopowercat’s D. Scott Fritchen (subscription needed) after the spring game about the duo.
“Kip Daily is stepping up and he’s really strong at the corner position and Dorrian Roberts is the other corner playing right now,” Sams said. “They’re tough. They’ll battle and go up for the ball. Sometimes, they’ll get me into some stuff that I don’t want to do, as far as disguising. I’ve got a lot of confidence in our defensive backs right now.”
While Roberts and Daily have likely secured their starting positions, there’s no guarantee the depth chart will remain the same as the season progresses—especially with young talent biting at their heels for playing time.
One promising backup for the Wildcats at cornerback is the 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore, Morgan Burns. Burns played most of his minutes last year on special teams, demonstrating his speed and recording a team-high 10 special teams tackles, giving him 11 total tackles on the year. Burns will see ample time on special teams this year, and will surely be on the field against some of the more receiver laden offensive sets that the Wildcats will see in facing high-potency Big 12 offenses.
Next in line at the cornerback postion is Carl Miles, Jr. After transferring from Georgia tech and sitting out in the 2011 season, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, played in 12 games last season, picking up 3 tackles and forcing a fumble along the way. Miles will no doubt find time on the field this year, most likely on special teams, but will have to continue to prove himself if he wants to beat out the backs ahead of him.
With 33 days left until the opening kickoff, we’ll continue the breakdown of K-State’s positions. With the loss of defensive anchor Arthur Brown, we’ll take a look next at the Wildcats’ linebacking corps.