Friend of BOTC David Ubben listed safety Dante Barnett as Kansas State's "Under the Radar" player back in July, which is really the main reason his feature is coming so late in this series. The fact is Barnett will likely be a crucial piece in this defense not only this year, but hopefully all the way through 2015.
We don't need to rehash how Barnett looked worse than he actually was against Baylor. In fact, it's probably best for everyone, including Barnett himself, to forget about most of last season, other than maybe the trust the coaches put in him to make him a starter as a true freshman (we can still call grayshirts that, right?) when help was needed.
There's no doubt this kid has a lot of talent, good size and good speed. Basically, he's got all the physical tools necessary to be an excellent safety, including a strong mentor in Ty Zimmerman.
Of course, all of that doesn't always necessarily translate directly to success. Then there's the fact that if the defensive line and linebackers are as bad as some worry they could be, it won't really matter how good Kansas State's safeties are.
But let's try not to think about that. Instead, let's talk about how Barnett could be the next Marcus Watts or Rashad Washington or Jon McGraw.
He seems to have the athletic ability of all of those guys, and hopefully after a year and a half on campus his knowledge of the defense is good enough to avoid stupid mistakes. He's majoring in kinesiology, so that surely bodes well for his real-life IQ and, in turn, his football IQ.
I'm betting if Barnett can make a few plays in the nonconference and really get his confidence up, he could really be a difference maker when conference play rolls around. I'd like to think a defense with Zimmerman and another stud playing safety won't give up a lot of big plays, which is exactly what K-State needs to control the tempo and beat all of the league's frantic spread offenses.
Those two are certainly the biggest reasons why my gut tells me the secondary should be just fine this season, especially compared to the linebackers and defensive line. If the guys guarding the receivers can keep offenses on the field longer and pick off a few passes, it could be good enough to steal another win or two when the other team outgains the 'Cats in a big way.
Programming note: I've got two more players left to feature in this series. If you've been paying attention, or just look at the list below, you should be able to figure out who they are.
Previously in this series: