The Kansas State Wildcats lose their entire front seven on defense (and 10 of 11 starters overall) to eligibility going into the 2013 football season. Normally this would instill fears of doom in fans, but Coach Bill Snyder may have had at least 2/3 of his line of succession in place before the 2012 season even ended. In fact, the team’s depth chart may be close to solidified long before the 2013 recruiting class arrives on campus.
The easiest starter to pinpoint is outside linebacker Tre Walker. The 6’3″, 225-pound senior from Olathe North was lost to injury against Texas Tech and unable to play for the rest of the season. At the time Walker was a backup to Justin Tuggle and Jarrell Childs. However, he was also receiving significant playing time as a reserve and has started 17 of his 34 career games.
Walker isn’t necessarily guaranteed to be 100 percent when the team kicks off the season in August following surgery to repair his knee. He isn’t expected to be making any tackles in the spring game either. However, he’s been optimistic about his progress and told the media that, “Right now, I’m ahead of schedule. I shouldn’t even be running and jogging right now, but I’m cutting and running at full speed and doing the workouts. It’s kind of scary to the doctors because they don’t believe I should be back this early, but I’ve been truly blessed.”
Next to Walker could be redshirt senior Blake Slaughter. Slaughter did not play a down last year, taking the unconventional approach of redshirting after three years with the team. However, Slaughter also had redshirt eligibility and knew early on that his playing time would be limited while backing up All-American Arthur Brown. And while unlikely to emulate his Brown’s prolific play, he will still remind fans of the future NFLer. Slaughter is 5’10″ and 227 lbs - dimensions similar to Brown. He spent the past year in the weight room and on the practice field getting stronger and faster while observing the team and absorbing the playbook to essentially be a player-coach when he takes the field this fall.
Commenting on Slaughter, Snyder stated that “He took advantage of that time and prepared himself well. He wasn’t working on the scout squad, he was working with our ones and twos. He didn’t take very many reps during that time but he’s one of those young guys that can learn whether he’s on the field or not.” Speaking about a player that started four games during his sophomore year in 2010 (and then took a backseat to Brown in 2011), Slaughter appears poised to top the depth chart at ILB.
That really leaves one linebacker spot for the rest of the team. Among the early candidates are junior Jonathan Truman and sophomore Mike Moore. These two will be looking to make a big splash during spring practice, because this fall Dakorey Johnson hits campus. The three star transfer from Trinity Valley Community College is ranked the nation’s number 13 outside linebacker by 247 Sports, and could help solidify another stellar linebacking unit for the Wildcats.
So how about it, EMAW nation? Despite all the turnover, is there reason to be optimistic about this unit in 2013?