K-State is not traditionally a team of freshmen phenoms that take the nation by storm – so many players take grayshirts and redshirts, and the program does an excellent job of plugging holes of need with junior college talent. Yet there are three freshman that should make an immediate splash their first of eligibility (spoiler alert – given the turnover on defense and returning talent on offense, they’re all defensive players).
Tanner Wood, Defensive End
Wood has a couple decently talented players ahead of him in Ryan Mueller(who should be the best defensive lineman on the team this year) and senior transfer Alauna Finau from Dominguez/Cerritos College. While there’s no denying Mueller’s talent, Finau was limited in action last year with seven total tackles as a second-teamer playing in nine games. The other returning option is sophomore Marquel Bryant, who had three tackles in five games last season.
Wood was one of the top three players coming out of Kansas last year after playing at Conway Springs. While dominant on both sides of the football (he set the Kanas state single-game rushing record with a 659-yard game against Chaparral in which he scored nine touchdowns and also ranked third all-time nationally with the effort). As a senior he finished with 110 tackles to go along with 2,709 rushing yards. He was also an all-state performer as a junior when he had 88 tackles and three interceptions at linebacker.
Woods is making the transition from playing linebacker at 3A to playing defensive end in the NCAA. He may need a game or two to fully handle the transition. But make no mistake – you will not see him redshirt his first year on campus. The departures of Meshak Williams and Adam Davis were huge, and K-State needs a major talent infusion to replace them. I believe Mueller has what it takes. Bryant hasn’t had a lot of opportunity in his limited time with the team and Finau has demonstrated himself as a quality back up at this level. Wood is tall, at 6’5″, and capable of getting his hands up and in the face of opposing quarterbacks. He may not start at the beginning of the season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he finished the year with 40+ tackles.
Will Davis, Linebacker
I’ve been high on the team’s linebacker corps all summer, and stand by the assertion. Arthur Brown, Childs, and Tuggle are impossible to replace per se, but there’s some good talent here with Tre Walker coming back from injury and Blake Slaughter coming back after a year off. There’s really one open spot at linebacker and Jonathan Truman has his eyes on it, although it could be an approach by committee. Enter Will Davis.
Davis is actually a redshirt freshman and has had a year in the system to learn. Here are the stats he brought to K-State: 176 tackles (115 solo), 10 sacks, six knockdowns, two forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. In just his senior year. The Texas Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year had 308 tackles – 25 for loss – and 14 sacks in his final two years of high school. I’m not sure if he can start this year, but Davis will be an absolute terror on special teams and should rotate in for relief at linebacker in most if not all games in 2013.
Nick Ramirez, Linebacker
Another linebacker looking to make a name for himself early in his career, Ramirez should bring a higher ceiling than Davis. The school’s lone four-star recruit this year, Ramirez was one of Missouri’s best recruits. He also knows something about getting noticed as an underclassman, racking up 130 tackles and seven sacks en route to helping Lee’s Summit West to the 5A state championship as a sophomore. He followed that performance up with a 115 tackle campaign as a junior. Ranked the #11 inside linebacker in the nation, he didn’t stand out as much moving to the position after playing outside linebacker earlier in his career. However, there’s no doubt he’s the most heralded high school recruit the Wildcats signed in 2013. Similar to Davis, he should be featured prominently as a back up linebacker this season and combine with Davis for some decimating punt return coverage.
So those are the three freshman The Jug is looking forward to seeing on the field this year. Anyone you feel was left off? Who do you want to see in 2013?