Marching on in our countdown to the Friday night game against North Dakota State University on August 30, day 67 is to devoted to highlighting the number of passes defended in 2012. In addition, we’ll look at how many of those passes defended were provided by players that return to the field in 2013.
K-State lost a lot of defensive talent this spring, and that’s an indisputable fact. However, a theme we’ll be working to develop this summer is the talent that returns to the field (an idea we first began to explore last week). Of the passes defended last year, here are the players that created at least one:
Barnett, Dante: 2
Britz, Travis: 1
Evans, Randall: 7
Mueller, Ryan: 6
Zimmerman, Ty: 7
Of the returning players on this list, only Ty Zimmerman was a starter last year. Yet these players contributed 34 percent of the total passes defended last year in predominantly backup roles. One of those players is #15 Randall Evans – pictured above breaking up a pass intended for Jaxon Shipley – who contributed just over 10 percent of the team total. Evans will be a junior this season, and has sufficient experience and talent to trusted as a starter in 2013. He’ll be joined in the secondary by sophomore Dante Barnett, who runs a 4.55 forty yard dash while still standing at 6’1″ and provided two. Ty Zimmerman returns at the safety position, and no one should have to be reminded of what a ballhawk the All-American is.
I expect Ryan Mueller to record at least 15 passes defended his junior year. Subbing in at defensive end in 2012, Mueller displayed incredible instincts as a sophomore in knowing precisely when to get his hands up and bat down the ball. He’ll be joined on the line by sophomore-to-be Travis Britz, who has had a year to develop and will help control offensive linemen.
It’s true, two thirds of those 67 passes defended in 2012 will not be returning. But the 23 PDs that do were provided by players that maximized their production when given the opportunity to perform. Even more exciting is that Zimmerman was the only upperclassman on the list – the others were freshmen and sophomores last year. Will Nigel Malone and Allan Chapman be difficult to replace? Absolutely. But there’s reason to believe in their replacements, and with the number of tipped balls they should provide, every offensive coordinator in the Big 12 should be warning their teams about interceptions when they visit Bill Snyder Family Stadium.