The 2013 season is rapidly approaching, so let’s continue our position-by-position breakdown of the Kansas State football team. In our preview of the linebacking corps we noted how the loss of Arthur Brown, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, would certainly be a difficult transition for coach Bill Snyder’s defense. The losses on the defensive line, however, look to make things even more difficult for the Wildcats’ defense to match the performance of 2012.
K-State returns zero career starts on this year’s defensive line after the graduation of All-Big 12 first team defensive end Meshak Williams, All-Big 12 second team defensive end Adam Davis, All-Big 12 second team defensive tackle Vai Lutui and defensive tackle John Sua. That group combined to allow only 127 rushing yards per game, good for second in the conference. It’ll be a daunting task for the Wildcats to replace that level of performance.
During K-State’s media day earlier this month, Coach Snyder discussed the heated position battle for the Wildcats’ front four. In typical fashion, he raised as many questions as he answered, mentioning that the fight for the starting positions is heated and could draw from as many as 10 players.
Ryan Mueller, a 6-foot-2, 245 pound defensive end returns for his junior season, and is likely the only player on the defensive line to have a certain starting job. As a sophomore Mueller saw playing time primarily in passing situations, racking up 14 tackles, with three of those for a loss and two sacks – out of the 2.5 sacks returning from a squad that registered 24.5 last year. The former walk-on will be called upon to step up in both his leadership, and his on-field play to anchor an inexperienced group of lineman.
Another returning defensive end who had playing experience last year is senior Alauna Finau. A 6-foot-1, 258 pound former community college transfer, Finau recorded seven tackles in the nine games in which he appeared last season. Finau will certainly see playing time, but it’s still uncertain if he’ll be the starter opposite Mueller come August 30th.
Competing with Finau for the other starting end spot will be sophomore Marquel Bryant. Tall and athletic at 6-foot-3, 241 pounds, Bryant played in five games last season, notching 3 tackles. He’ll look to prove himself in his second season as a Wildcat.
Defensive End Depth
Given the uncertainty of starting positions and the competition for playing time, there will likely be a good rotation of players who see action this season. Two juniors, Laton Dowling (6’3, 254) and Devon Nash (6’5, 264) will see time as reserves and will fight to improve their position on the depth chart.
Competing with them will be a pair of freshmen, Jordan Willis (6’4, 250) and Tanner Wood (6’5, 235). The two offer hope for the future of K-State’s defensive end position, as Powercat Illustrated (subscription needed) points out,
“Willis, a chiseled weight room warrior, enters backed by arguably more hype than his four-star counterpart because of his workout routines that have quickly gone viral. Wood, the reigning Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, isn’t one to be outdone though, as strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson called him one of the strongest newcomers on the roster.”
Another player that likely has a starting position locked up on the line is defensive tackle Travis Britz. As a freshman, Britz played in 11 games, a regular in the tackle rotation, notching six tackles including two for a loss. The 6-foot-4, 293-pounder enters his sophomore season as a key piece of the Wildcats’ defense, a big lineman who will keep opposing offensive lineman busy.
Although the second starting tackle isn’t set in stone, the most likely candidate is senior Chaquil Reed, who played in 4 games last year with one tackle coming against Miami. The 6-foot-3, 309 pound former Butler County Community College transfer now has a season’s experience with the Wildcats, and will look to build upon his junior campaign.
Defensive Tackle Depth
The competition for the defensive tackle rotation is fierce. Kansas State has two redshirt freshman entering this season in Demonte Hood (6’0, 303) and Matt Seiwert (6-3, 289). As redshirts, however, the two are virtual unknowns and will have much to prove if they expect to see snaps on defense.
Bill Snyder will also have a trio of transfers to work with at the tackle spot. All entering their junior seasons, DeAndre Roberts (6’5 280), Valentino Coleman (6’2, 285), and Chris Brown (6’4, 320) will all compete for a spot in the rotation as well, and will provide decent depth for the Wildcats.
The losses from last year’s defense will certainly be an obstacle to overcome for K-State, but there’s plenty of hope to be had given the competition for starting spots at every position. Next up, we’ll examine the offense in rapid-fire, with just 14 days left until the 2013 opening kickoff.