Kansas State Preview 2006 - Defense
Kansas State Wildcats
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Kansas State Wildcats Preview 2006 - Wildcat Defense

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Fletcher Session, 81
Sacks: 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

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:

Projected Starters
- 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 around.

- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 Ian Campbell.
- 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 out.
- DE
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

Projected Starters
- 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 big-time performer.

- 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.

Top Backups
- 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.

Defensive Backs
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

Projected Starters
- 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 passes
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.

Top Backups
- 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

Special Teams
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 tighter.
Special Teams Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- 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.

Related Stories
Kansas State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Kansas State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Kansas State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006

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