You might notice that these defensive previews are in ascending order of concern, from most secure position group to least secure.
Well, if there are some question marks at cornerback, then linebacker is a glaring exclamation point.
Left to fill the void are a mix of inexperienced veterans, even more inexperienced true and redshirt freshmen, and a converted running back.
Granted, we only need to find two solid and reliable linebackers, but a failure to do so could derail an otherwise promising defense. Plus, it remains to be seen how Chris Cosh's promotion to full-time defensive coordinator will affect his coaching of this position group.
For having just two positions available, K-State sure has a slew of linebackers listed on its official roster. (Perhaps presaging a return to the 4-3 in the not-too-distant future...?) Follow the jump to see the complete cast of candidates.
The Middle Enforcers
#6 Tate Snyder
He might be only 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, and Rivals.com might only have rated him a two-star player, but one thing's for sure: I won't bet against a man named Snyder. His grandfather is a legendary coach and his father is listed in the Ring of Fame. While that might not translate to sheer football skill (Bill Snyder always says he was a terrible defensive back), there's no question Tate knows the game. He'll redshirt this season, but I predict you'll hear his name a lot in the future.
#20 Riley Williams
#26 Jarell Childs
People might not realize this because he saw little playing time last year as the third-string running back, but Jarell Childs actually was a highly touted prospect in the Kansas City metro area when we signed him. The staff, realizing his athleticism probably would go to waste, given the other running backs they were signing, moved him to linebacker in the spring. He looked pretty good in the spring game, although there certainly will be some inexperience to go with his athleticism. Word out of Fan Appreciation Day was that Childs was running with the 2s, perhaps because of a cast on his right hand, but the lineups at this position group probably will fluctuate from week to week. He'll play a lot.
#33 Weston Hiebert
We've got the same dilemma with Weston Hiebert as we had with Riley Williams: There's no bio, so I don't know anything about him.
#34 Cody Marley
Wanna know how good Cody Marley, who already weighs 230 pounds as a true freshman, can be? Despite shattering his wrist in spring practice and not yet having been cleared to practice, the coaches have not ruled out his seeing playing time this year. For most players, such an injury would result in an automatic redshirt season, so he must really be showing them something for that option potentially to be discarded. Either way, I'm sure he'll make impact down the line.
#36 Nick Briney
Nick Briney's a 3-to-play-2 juco from Coffeyville Community College, where he recorded 53 tackles in his freshman season. Should be good for depth, if nothing else.
#37 David Smith
Yet another kid with no bio on the official site. My experience in following K-State's roster for the last decade is that most of these players don't stick around more than a year or two. The demands of being a walk-on, coupled with no financial support and the likelihood of never actually seeing the field, aren't for everyone, and that's perfectly understandable. But kudos to all those who try to make it. You never know who the next Jordy Nelson might be.
#39 Jonathan Truman
Houlik's number will be inherited by Jonathan Truman, a 212-pound freshman from Kechi, Kan. Truman was a three-year letter-winner at Kapaun Mt. Carmel, where he logged 312 career tackles, had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries as a senior, and was all-city and all-state in his final year, as well as participating in the Shrine Bowl. Sounds like a hell of a walk-on with a nose for the ball.
#45 Kevin Rohleder
At last word, Kevin Rohleder is one of the favorites to open the UCLA game as a starter. He's quite a bit faster than Houlik was, but thanks to Ron Prince's insane policy of burning redshirts, this will be his only season to make an impact as a starter. He logged quite a bit of time last season as a bench player, however. Rohleder's also a standout on special teams, especially in kickoff and punt coverage.
#46 Arthur Brown
The man, the myth, the legend. Every time a linebacker blows a tackle this season, my thoughts will flash to the native son of Wichita riding the pine this fall. I don't know why he never saw serious playing time at Miami, but it certainly wasn't because of talent. Ten to one says Arthur is named Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year, and the hype for him leading up to the 2011 spring game will be nothing short of epic.
#47 Jared Loomis
Jared Loomis is a 3-to-play-3 linebacker from Dodge City Community College, where he was a two-time honorable mention All-Jayhawk Conference selection. That carries a lot of weight with me. He had 167 tackles in two seasons.
#48 Jarett Wright
Jarett Wright is like Loomis, but with an even better pedigree. He lettered both years at Butler County Community College, including its national championship season, in which he had a freakish 111 tackles — 71 of them solo.
This is his last season of eligibility and there is talk he could see some playing time based on his spring and summer performance. Wright could be a dark horse to claim at least a backup linebacker spot, in my opinion.
#49 Mitchell Roberts
Mitchell Roberts is a walk-on from Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark., who stands 6-foot-3 and weights 245 pounds already. With that size, the coaches might elect to redshirt him so he can put on more weight and move to bandit defensive end. Either way, his chief contribution might be helping us to land his high school teammate, Samuel Harvill, a possible four-star defensive tackle who will join the Cats next year.
#50 Tre Walker
I love Tre Walker. I think he's going to be one of K-State's all-time greats before he leaves us for the NFL. But this probably won't be the season for him to emerge. At 6-foot-4, his 205 pounds is way too light for a athletic middle linebacker candidate, so he seems like a prime candidate for a redshirt. But his motor might prove too valuable to keep on the bench, especially if the other candidates for the two jobs are underwhelming after a couple of weeks.
#51 Blake Martin
Blake Martin is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound freshman linebacker from St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park, Kan.
Likely another redshirt candidate.
#53 Blake Slaughter
It goes without saying that Blake Slaughter has the quintessential linebacker name. Even more impressive was the coaches' decision not to redshirt him last season, even though he mostly contributed on special teams only. At 5-foot-11, he's a little on the short side, but he has the frame to be a true run-stopping 'backer. Early word from fall camp was that Slaughter might have beaten Childs out for a starting job, so he's definitely a player to watch this year.
#56 Alex Hrebec
Alex burst onto the scene in 2008, emerging as a starter despite not even being invited to camp as a preferential walk-on and proving once again that Ron Prince had a questionable eye for talent. In a season where every other Wildcat seemed allergic to tackling, Hrebec racked up 68 of them — good for second on the team. He had a bit of a sophomore slump last season, losing his starting job to Ulla Pomele, but there's no denying his motor and desire.
Alex's main drawback is his lack of speed, and while he's a near-lock to start the UCLA game due mainly to his veterancy, he eventually might be passed up by a younger linebacker, such as Slaughter or Walker, as they gain experience.
#59 Brian Hertzog
At just 205 pounds, Hertzog probably is too light to see the field as a linebacker. He redshirted in 2007 and has been a scout-team mainstay ever since, which likely is his ceiling given that he did not see any playing time last year.
Depth Chart Predictions
- Starters: Alex Hrebec and Kevin Rohleder
- Backups: Jarell Childs and Blake Slaughter
- Third-String: Cody Marley and Jarett Wright