Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
We’re now 44 days from kick-off against North Dakota State University and with our countdown we turn our spotlight onto #44 Ryan Mueller, a defensive end looking to move into the starting role after earning playing time every game each of the past two years.
A letterman at St. Thomas Aquinas, Mueller was named the Kansas City Metro Defensive Player of the Year and a 5A First Team All-State player as the Saints earned a berth in the Kansas State Championship game his senior year. Mueller’s statistical contributions have been somewhat limited the past two years, with three tackles as a redshirt freshman and 14 as a redshirt sophomore. That’s what happens when the two defensive ends starting in front of you get picked up by NFL teams the next spring – there was a lot of talent that limited Mueller’s time. However, he was still featured in every game while also recording two sacks, three tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, and six passes defended (more on the subject of passes defended here) in 2012.
Mueller was primarily used as a pass-rush lineman last year, as he has the motor to get after the quarterback and displayed an impeccable knack for getting his arms up and knocking down passes (think J.J. Watt without the massive hands). He’s projected to start his junior year, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t pick up where his predecessors left off. Additionally, he’ll have the advantage growing into a true position as he was used as a utility lineman early in his career, playing both end and tackle for the Wildcats. That experience allowed him to work against players that outweighed him by 60 or 70 pounds (he tips the scales at 240) after originally being recruited as an outside linebacker.
Mueller is a great story – he couldn’t even get a scholarship offer out of Missouri State or Pittsburg State coming out of high school in 2010, so he walked on to K-State. After a redshirt season he earned time every game in 2011 and had a fumble recovery in the Cotton Bowl. That body of work earned him a scholarship, and now he’s out to prove the world wrong again.
To work backwards in our countdown, visit day 45, where we preview DE Marquel Bryant.