It's important to note as we go through this series (hopefully I'll get to 5 more players) that not only is it unlikely all of these players will exceed expectations this season, it's virtually impossible. This couldn't be more true at linebacker, where there just isn't enough playing time — or tackles — to go around for unproven but potentially great guys Mike Moore, Blake Slaughter and Jonathan Truman to have breakout seasons.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let's talk about how Truman could establish himself as one of the league's top linebackers. To be sure, it's a lot to ask of a former walk-on from Kapaun Mt. Carmel who is listed at 5-11, 219, making him the second-shortest (tied with some other guys) and 3rd lightest linebacker on the team, if you discount freshmen likely to put on more bulk as their careers progress.
In other words, he's not going to be the big, strong intimidating presence of say, a Mark Simoneau or a Terry Pierce. I'm also not sure Truman has the athleticism to play the kind of ballhawking defense we saw from an Arthur Brown, or even David Garrett in his hybrid linebacker/safety days.
Honestly, that leaves Truman with little option but to execute to perfection all the basic principles of Snyderball, which he seems quite capable of doing. 312 tackles in high school and 25 tackles last season (the most by a non-starter unless you count Randall Evans, which I certainly don't) shows us this is a guy that knows how to wrap up.
Add in the fact that 12 of those tackles came on special teams, and you begin to see an impressive eye for the ball and knack of being in the right place at the right time. Leadership and anticipation are two of the most important skills for a linebacker to have, along with the ability to read a quarterback, and Truman appears to be a guy capable of mastering all of those skills.
It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Kansas State's inexperienced defense doesn't allow a lot of yards on occasion against some of the Big 12's explosive offenses, so it sure would be nice to have some players capable of getting the ball back to the offense immediately. Again, though it's admittedly a small sample size, Truman picked up two fumbles last season in his limited time.
Whether we hear his name called a lot or not, Truman could be the kind of guy that brings some nice intangibles to a team that has seemingly always thrived on the inspiration provided by hardworking, blue-collar players who seemingly didn't have huge potential when they entered the program. But if Truman can catch a break here and there to make himself an every down type of linebackers, he seems capable of giving us a few pleasant surprises.
Previously in this series: