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2009 Kansas State Preview - Defense
Kansas State CB Joshua Moore
Kansas State CB Joshua Moore
Posted May 12, 2009 2009 Preview - Kansas State Wildcat Defense

Kansas State Wildcats

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Kansas State Preview | 2009 Kansas State Offense
- 2009 Kansas State Defense | 2009 Kansas State Depth Chart
- 2008 KSU Preview | 2007 KSU Preview | 2006 KSU Preview 

What you need to know:
The switch to the 3-4 alignment didn't work, and the addition of a bazillion JUCO transfers didn't help. Co-defensive coordinators Vic Koenning and Chris Cosh will switch things up to a 4-2-5 alignment to combat the spread and the high-octane Big 12 passing attacks. There are some positive stars to get excited about like Brandon Harold at one end and Virginia transfer at tackle, while Josh Moore is one of the best tackling, best all-around corners in the Big 12. However, the run defense was lousy last year and needs far more production out of the linebackers, who put up stats but didn't do enough to make big plays. The secondary has lots of live bodies, but there will be an open casting call for defenders to play next to Moore and Tysyn Hartman.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Joshua Moore, 76
Sacks: Brandon Harold, 3
Interceptions: Joshua Moore, 3

Star of the defense: Junior CB Josh Moore
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DB Brandon Herndon
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Tysyn Hartman
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Jeffrey Fitzgerald
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moore, 2) Fitzgerald, 3) DE Brandon Harold
Strength of the defense: Harold & Fitzgerald on the left side, tackling defensive backs
Weakness of the defense:
Linebackers, run defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Who can take over for three-time All-Big 12 performer Ian Campbell
as the new star of the line? Brandon Harold. The 6-6, 264-pound true sophomore was a disruptive force as an undersized, quick tackle and occasionally an end making 45 tackles with three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Now that the defense is in a true 4-3 and he'll get to spend all his time out side at left end, he should be a major-league difference maker.

Back on the other side is Eric Childs, a 6-3, 238-pound senior who started every game but one at right end finishing with 52 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. A phenomenal all-around athlete, he started out his career at linebacker before moving to the defensive line. Now that he'll get more help from the tackles, and all he'll have to do is beat his man to the outside, he should come up with a huge senior year.

Ready to make a big splash in his final season is Jeffrey Fitzgerald, a 6-4, 280-pound senior who was terrific at Virginia making 73 tackles, seven tackle and 11.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore coming off an all-star freshman season.  He ended up dropping out of school just when he was on the verge of blowing up into ACC superstardom, and now Kansas State is hoping for an NFL-caliber season from its new left tackle.

Bringing the bulk to the inside is Daniel Calvin, a 6-3, 310-pound senior who started in five games making 14 tackles. He's not going to get into the backfield and he's more of a nose than 4-3 tackle, but he's big, strong, and can gum up the works on the inside. The former JUCO transfer made 75 tackles and 12 sacks for Bakersfield College, but he's not expected to be an interior pass rusher.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Xzavier Stewart had a promising end to his true freshman season, even though he made just four tackles, and was expected to become a major factor on the inside of last year's line. He wasn't. He only saw time in three games and made three tackles, but the one-time star recruit has hit the weights, and the buffet, hard and is now up to 316 pounds on his 6-1 frame. His job will to help stuff the run playing behind Daniel Calvin. 

While he's a bit undersized, the 6-4, 267-pound sophomore Raphael Guidry can move. A good interior pass rushing prospect, he didn't get into the backfield last year but he made 12 tackles. An ideal 3-4 end, he'll be a part of the rotation at both interior spots.

Sophomore Payton Kirk will play end on the left side behind Brandon Harold, but he has the toughness of a tackle and is expected to be strong against the run. He only made one tackle last season, but at 6-6 and 235 pounds he has the height to alter passing lanes and be tough on special teams as a kick blocker. He blocked one extra point last year.

6-2, 235-pound sophomore Kadero Terrell was supposed to make an instant impact as a linebacker, but he took a redshirt year and moved to the line. The former JUCO transfer is one of the best athletes in the front seven and will be used as a situational pass rusher behind Eric Childs.

Watch Out For ... Harold. He was a better player than Ian Campbell for stretches last year and has a much bigger upside. If he gets help from the rest of the line, he'll be an All-Big 12 star.
Strength: Harold and Fitzgerald. With the Virginia transfer on the inside and Harold on the outside, the left side of the line might be the best in KSU history. This is an NFL-caliber duo.
Weakness: Run defense. The line struggled and sputtered in the old 3-4, and often reverted back to a 4-3, but the production didn't come finishing 112th in the nation against the run allowing 402 yards per game and 31 scores. Fitzgerald will instantly help the cause, but everyone else needs to shine, too.
Outlook: The coaching staff is making the defensive line job one, and if this spring was any indication, the improvement should be swift. Having a star like Jeffrey Fitzgerald on the inside is a major boost, while the emergence of Brandon Harold will give the Wildcats a pass rusher that every offense will have to worry about.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters
There will be plenty of movement in the linebacking corps, but 5-11, 238-pound  sophomore Alex Hrebec appears to have a spot locked up. The former walk-on turned out to be one of the team's most productive defenders finishing second on the team with 68 tackles with 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. He took over the starting job on the inside and was fine when things were funneled in his way, but he has a limited range.

5-11, 219-pound senior John Houlik is a huge hitter for his size and loves throwing his body around where needed to make plays. While he isn't particularly fast and he's smallish for an inside job, but he's tough and is a good tackler making 29 stops in eight games before getting hurt.
He's the team's most experienced linebacker.

Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO transfer Ulla Pomele stepped into the lineup right away and finished fourth on the team with 58 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 228 pounds, he isn't huge but he's very quick and very active with the talent to play any linebacker spot. He made 12 stops against Colorado, and once he's back and healthy, he'll likely take a starting spot.

Looking to finally make an impact is Josh Berard, a big-time talent who's trying to get back from a knee injury suffered last summer. The 6-2, 220-pound junior came over from El Camino Community College where he made 54 tackles with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He's a big-time pass rusher who can do a little of everything once he comes back healthy.

6-0, 230-pound senior Hansen Sekona turned into a nice backup as last year went on making 23 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. He's a tough inside presence who hits like a ton of bricks, but he'll have to battle to get in the rotation with a logjam of talent on the inside.

Watch Out For ... a lot of movement. A lot. In the new alignment, playing time will be at a premium for the linebackers and there will be lots of different combinations tried out to find the right twosome for the jobs.
Strength: Depth. It's a numbers game with only two starting linebacker spots for a defense that used four at a time for parts of last year. There are three players for each starting job meaning the coaching staff can get extremely creative depending on the situation.
Weakness: Talent. There are some nice try-hard types like Hrebec, but they're hardly going to keep offensive coordinators up at night. If Pomele isn't flying around, the corps is mediocre.
Outlook: There are several prospects to fill in and produce in the new system, but everyone has to be a lot better against the run. Alex Hrebec plays better than his talent and will make a ton of tackles, while John Houlik and Ulla Pomele will have to find time. The numbers will be fine, but unless there's more activity and more stuffing rather than reacting, this will be a linebcking corps. Nothing more.

Rating: 6


Projected Starters: The secondary desperately needed junior Joshua Moore to become a lock-down, playmaking corner. He did, and it didn't matter. The 5-11, 184-pounder led the team with 76 tackles with three interceptions, 12 broken up passes and five tackles for loss. He doesn't miss an open field stop and he's tough against the bigger receivers. He'll give up catches and big plays to the faster ones, but he's the defensive back the secondary will revolve around.

Also returning will be sophomore Tysyn Hartman, a quarterback when he came to Manhattan who turned into a leader in the defensive backfield. He didn't do much of anything against the pass, but he was a good tackler with 49 stops. With his speed and quickness, and with his 6-3, 207-pound size, the starting free safety of last year should make more big plays now that he has a year of experience.

Senior Courtney Herndon can see time at safety or as another linebacker. He's not huge at 6-0 and 211 pounds, but he's a big hitter who likes to throw his body around. He started ten games at strong safety and finished third on the team with 61 tackles with two interceptions and 4.5 tackles for loss, but his real talent turned out to be as a punt blocker after coming up with four. Dangerous with the ball in his hands, he took a pick 57 yards for a score against Nebraska.

Is Billy McClellan finally ready? A wide receiver by trade, he turned into a decent corner at the JUCO level, even if he was a little raw, and he came to Kansas State supposedly ready to produce right away. He only made 13 tackles and broke up one pass, but the light appeared to go on this spring and he'll play a bigger role. Only 5-8 and 170 pounds, he's a cover corner more than he is a big hitter. However, he's not afraid of contact.

6-1, 186-pound senior Craig Boswell came over from Hutchinson J.C. and was a decent special teamer. He was just good enough this spring to earn a starting spot late in the session as the fifth defensive back in the mix, and while he's not going to be a star, he could put up decent numbers.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Chris Carney was a decent starter in 2007 making 64 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions, and he started out playing in the first four games at free safety before getting bounced out of a job. Even so, he finished with 53 tackles with five broken up passes. With his 6-1, 190-pound size and good experience, he'll be a factor somewhere in the secondary.

Junior Dahrnaz Tigner might have the best combination of raw talent and skills in the secondary. At 6-2 and 223 pounds, he's a huge linebacker-like hitter, and he has track star skills after starring as a long jumper and triple jumper in high school. However, he hasn't put it together on the field serving mostly as a special teamer and making two stops last year. He'll be tried out at safety.

Arguably the team's best recruit this year, true freshman Thomas Ferguson will likely play a key role at the corner spot on the other side of Josh Moore. He's a big defender at 6-1 and 205 pounds and was a decent pass rusher who made seven sacks and 44 tackles as a high school senior.

Torrell Miller is a good safety prospect with excellent tackling ability and good upside. The true freshman could play receiver if needed, catching 13 touchdown passes for his high school in New Orleans, but at 6-3 and 200 pounds with big hitting skills, he'll play in the secondary.

Watch Out For
... Hartman. An ultra-athletic quarterback prospect, he quickly turned into a good-looking defensive back and now he should blow up into a big-time producer. He's smart, tough, and will be a key leader.
Tackling. This isn't a plus for the defense as a whole, considering the defensive backs were forced to make a ton of tackles, but this group is physical. Even so, it would be nice of the team's top corner, Joshua Moore, didn't have to be the team's top tackler.
The scheme. With five defensive backs to be used most of the time against the pass-happy Big 12 passing games, there are plenty of job openings. However, there isn't a ton of talent for all the spots, and while there are decent backup options across the board, there needs to be more quality to go along with the quantity. 
Secondary coach Vic Koenning will go with five defensive backs more often than not, and it's going to be the team's philosophy going forward as evidenced by the recruiting class that brought in a ton of new prospects. Joshua Moore is a star at corner and Tysyn Hartman is a good-looking safety, but it'll be an open casting call for the other three jobs to find the right combination. While there will be more of an emphasis on the secondary, there needs to be more production after finishing 106th in the nation in pass defense.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
: Junior Josh Cherry will step in and take over for Brooks Rossman, who hit 9-of-12 field goals with all three misses coming from beyond 40 yards. Cherry has a huge leg and spent a little time handling kickoffs. Now he's expected to be a steady bomber who'll get his chances from deep. Consistency will be his key from inside the 40.

The punting was abysmal last year averaging just 37.8 yards per try. In comes Ryan Doerr, who originally signed with South Carolina and now will be the team's starting punter for the next four years. He should average more than 40 yards per kick and will bomb away far better and far more consistently than D.J. Fulhage did.

Brandon Banks will be the team's main kickoff returner after averaging 27.7 yards per pop with a touchdown, while he'll try to fill in for Deon Murphy as a punt returner after averaging 11.6 yards per try on his five attempts.

Watch Out For
... Doerr. The punting game went from a monster strength to a big weakness in a hurry, but Doerr has the talent to make it a positive again even though D.J. Fulhage is back after averaging 38 yards per kick. Doerr will need a while to get his feet wet, but he's a good one who'll eventually be strong.
Strength: Punt returns. It was Jordy Nelson a few years ago, Deon Murphy the last two years, and now it'll be Banks who'll be among the best in America. The return game was a plus under the old coaching staff, and it should be great again.
Weakness: Sure-thing kicking. The Wildcats will be fine in time, but they'll be counting on Cherry and Doerr to be excellent out of the box.
Outlook: The special teams were great in every phase except for the punting game, and if Josh Cherry is good and consistent on field goals, KSU will have a big advantage. The coverage teams need to be as good as they were in 2008, and not revert to the 2007 form. Brandon Banks will be one of the nation's best all-around return men.