What you need to know ... New defensive coordinator Raheem
Morris will employ some cover 2 and cover 3 schemes putting the
pressure on the safeties to make smart plays and asking the
outside linebackers to be explosive in all areas. Fortunately,
the Wildcats have a great free safety in Marcus Watts to be the
quarterback of the secondary while Brandon Archer, Maurice
Mack, and Reggie Walker are disruptive linebackers who'll crank
out some huge stats. The line has decent talent against the run
as long as tackle Quintin Echols can get into shape, but it has
to figure out how to get into the backfield.
Kayunta Dawson, 2.5
Interceptions: Several at 1
Star of the defense: Senior LB Brandon Archer
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DE Ian Campbell
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Reggie Walker
Best pro prospect: Senior LB Brandon Archer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Archer, 2) FS Marcus
Watts, 3) DT Quintin Echols
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush from the defensive line
The line might not be full of sure-thing
all-stars, but it should be tremendously productive against the run with
good experience and decent size. Rising star Quintin Echols has to get
his weight under wraps to be the effective leader up front, while
Stephen Cline and Alphonso Moran need to be steady on the left side. The real
issue is the proven pass rush; there isn't any after the front four generated a mere nine sacks last
year. Expect that to change in a hurry with Moses Manu and Eric Childs
on the verge of blossoming into regulars into opposing backfields.
The key to the unit: Get to the quarterback. That appears to be
priority one for defensive line coach Mo Latimore, and he'll have his
guys revved up to find ways into the backfield. However, they can't
ignore stopping the run.
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Ian Campbell, Soph. - 7 tackles, 1 TFL
While the 6-4, 240-pound Campbell was the starter at left end coming out
of spring ball, it'll be a shock if he holds onto the gig all season
long. The former walk-on is a bit undersized and will be limited against
the run, but he's a nice athlete who won't lack for effort.
- DT Steven Cline, Jr. - 8 tackles, 2.5 TFL
A pure run stopper, the 6-2, 290-pound senior had a decent year learning
the ropes as a reserve in the middle. While he'll get into the backfield
on occasion, he's mostly going to make his mark clogging things up.
Working on generating more pass rushing moves has been a priority.
- DT Quintin Echols, Sr. - 45 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2
broken up passes
While he was one of the team's most productive linemen last season
finishing sixth on the team in tackles, he became a disappointment this
off-season when he fell out of shape and lost his quickness. If he can
get to just under 300 pounds, he has the talent to become an All-Big 12
caliber performer and the type of anchor to revolve the entire defense
- DE Blake Sieler, Sr. - 34 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Mostly an end, the 6-3, 245-pound senior got a few looks at defensive
tackle this off-season to see if he could turn into a quick interior
pass rusher. He's a smart, experienced player with a non-stop motor, but
he's not a pure pass rusher and will be a part of a rotation with Eric
Childs on the right side.
- DT Alphonso Moran, Soph. - 21 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
The 290-pound sophomore was a regular in the middle of the line last
season with the experience, strength, and quickness to be a good
all-around tackle in the rotation. He's tough as nails, but he was
limited this spring with a cast on his arm.
- DE Moses Manu, Jr.
With excellent speed and drive in a 6-3, 260-pound frame, the JUCO
transfer could be just the end needed to make the line productive again.
While he could use some polish and needs some D-I experience, he has the
potential to become a devastating pass rusher on the left side behind
- DE Rob Jackson, Jr.
The JUCO transfer has the athleticism of a tight end and the strength to
hold up well against the run. The 6-3, 265-pound Jackson is a good pass
rusher who should find time in the rotation right off the bat inside and
Eric Childs, RFr.
Can he get heavier and not lose any of his speed? The 6-2, 225-pound
redshirt freshman is by far the smallest lineman in the mix, and he's
also the fastest. If he can put it all together, he'll be the consistent
pass rusher the defensive line desperately needs.
The Big 12 is loaded with excellent linebacking corps, so
this one isn't going to get a whole lot of notice. However, it could be
among the league's most productive with the new defense placing the
emphasis on getting big plays in all phases from the outside
linebackers. Brandon Archer is one of the Big 12's best, and he'll move
from strongside to weakside to get the athleticism of Reggie Walker on
the field. This pushes good-hitting veteran Maurice Mack to a backup
role, but he'll find time somewhere. Zach Diles is on the verge of an
all-star season now that he has the starting job in the middle.
The key to the unit: Archer, Mack, and Walker have to
take advantage of all their opportunities. If they don't have big years,
then neither will the Wildcat defense.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5
- Reggie Walker, Soph. - 16 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Walker could be the key to the new defense. He'll be given plenty of
responsibility on the strongside needing to sniff out pass plays as well
as be a disruptive force in the backfield. While he's not huge at 6-2
and 220 pounds, he can move and can hit.
- Zach Diles, Sr. - 50 tackles, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 3 forced fumbles
Diles can do a little of everything well on the inside. He's an
experienced 230-pound senior who hits like a ton of bricks and started
to come on at the end of last year as a good pass rusher. The former
star JUCO transfer finished fourth on the team in tackles even though he
was a backup. Expect him to come into his own and blossom into a
- Brandon Archer, Sr. - 72 tackles, 3 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 1
interception, 3 broken up passes, 2 forced fumbles
The leader of the defense, Acher has been a steady starter for the last
two years doing most of his work on the strongside with 162 tackles of
experience, but now he'll move over to the weakside in an attempt by the
new coaching staff to get all the pieces into the right spots. He can do
a little of everything well from stuff the run to hang with most backs
in pass coverage. He should be more of a pass rusher with more room
to move at his new spot.
- Maurice Mack, Sr. - 53 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL
A starter in every game on the weakside last year, Mack will have to
find time off the bench with Brandon Archer moving over. The 215-pound
senior isn't suited for the strongside, but he's too good to keep off
the field for long; he can flat out fly. The former safety might even
see time in the secondary just to find more playing time for him.
- Ross Diehl, RFr.
While still undersized at 6-2 and 220 pounds, he's bigger than he was
last year when he looked more like a safety. After a year in the weight
room, he's a very strong, very promising prospect on the strongside
after moving over from the middle. With his range, he should have a
wonderful nose for he ball.
- MacKenzie Rosel, RFr.
Can Rosel hold up in the middle? He has the toughness and is a sure
tackler making 177 stops in his senior year of high school alone, but
he's only 205 pounds. His speed will have to make up for the lack of
bulk behind Zach Diles.
The secondary will have to learn how to handle the zones and
responsibilities of the cover 2 and cover 3 defenses, and there are
several good prospects to get more production. Safety isn't an issue
with rising star Marcus Watts sure to be an All-Big 12 selection if he's
fine after suffering a hip injury, and Kyle Williams and Courtney
Herndon are good enough to handle themselves well. Justin McKinney,
Bryan Baldwin and Byron Garvin are speedy corners who should be far
better now that they're more experienced.
The key to the unit: Pick off more passes. KSU only
came up with eight interceptions with the linebacking corps helping out
with some of them. The safeties have to handle themselves well in zones
and the corners have to come up with more game-changing plays.
Secondary Rating: 6
- CB Bryan Baldwin, Jr. - 38 tackles, 1 sack, 1
interception, 6 broken up passes
While Baldwin didn't make a whole bunch of big plays in his first year
as a starter, he didn't have too many problems and should be among the
team's most consistent defenders this season. Even though he doesn't
have elite speed, he's hardly slow and is a good open field tackler.
- FS Marcus Watts, Jr. - 71 tackles, 2 TFL, 5 broken up passes
Watts needs to be back at 100% after suffering a dislocated hip late
last year. He's one of the Big 12's better safeties finishing second on
the team in tacklers as both a defender and a star on the special teams.
His 55 solo stops alone would've made him third on the team in tackles.
The former wide receiver still needs a little bit of polish, but he's a
fantastic hitter who can run all day.
- SS Kyle Williams, Sr. - 42 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 4 broken up
The former JUCO transfer had a nice first season as a spot starter
highlighted by a ten tackle game against Iowa State. His technique is a
little raw and he'll occasionally be out of position in an attempt to
crank out a big play, and now he'll have to be rock-solid with all the
responsibility in the cover 2 and cover 3 schemes.
- CB Justin McKinney, Jr. - 29 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3
interceptions, 6 broken up passes, 2 forced fumbles
McKinney should be in for a breakout season. He had a nice year in his
first season at the D-I level after moving over from the JUCO ranks, and
now he's most physical and more confident. Not afraid to bump and push,
he should match up well with the bigger Big 12 receivers while
possessing the 4.3 speed to hang with the faster ones.
- CB Byron Garvin, Jr. - 30 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1
interception, 3 broken up passes
There's no questioning Garvin's skills, but he has to prove he can be
counted on after being suspended over the second half of last year
for violating team rules. With next-level speed and surprising tackling
ability for a player of his 5-10, 180-pound size, he'll find his way
into the starting mix somehow.
- SS Courtney Herndon, RFr.
While he's not Marcus Watts, Herndon proved this spring that he could be
counted on to start if needed after seeing plenty of reps with Watts on
the sidelines. Even though he's only 5-11 and 200 pounds, he can hit
like a linebacker.
- CB Devin Anderson, Jr.
The roster has him listed at 5-10 and 185 pounds, but the JUCO transfer
is lucky to hit 5-8. It doesn't really matter considering it's his
blinding speed that makes him a valuable prospect behind Justin McKinney
at one corner and on special teams. His picked off seven passes and
broke up 22 more for NE Oklahoma A&M last season
The kicking game isn't all that bad considering
placekicker Jeff Snodgrass and punter Tim Reyer have huge legs. Yamon
Figurs was tremendous on kickoff returns averaging 24.7 yards per try
and averaged 13.1 yards per return on punts. The coverage units were
great, but could be better against punts.
The key to the unit: Get a little better in all
areas. The kicking game could stand to be more consistent, Figurs has to
keep being a big play return man, and the punt coverage has to be
Special Teams Rating: 7
- PK Jeff Snodgrass, Sr. - 10-16 FGs, 21-23 extra points
Serviceable at best so far, Snodgrass was too inconsistent and needs to
be stronger from medium range. There's no questioning his range able to
nail a 57-yard bomb against North Texas and a 51-yard shot against
Colorado. The coaching staff won't be afraid to try him out from
anywhere inside 60 yards.
- P Tim Reyer, Jr. - 65 punts, 2,620 yds, 40.3 yards per kick, 18
inside the 20
Reyer regressed a bit last year, but he's better than his stats would
indicate. He has a good enough leg to hit a few big shots and can hang
it up in the air, but he has to bump up his average a few yards.