Last week, I discussed KSU's oft-praised linebacking corps, which clearly should be the most important cog in this year's defense. However, it may not be too much of a stretch to say the part of the defense most critical to success in the Big 12 will be the defensive line.
In a league obsessed with spread offenses and (not-quite-as-good-this-year) quarterbacks capable of slinging it all over the field, it won't really matter how good your linebackers and secondary are if you're not getting guys in the backfield. Too many blitzes, and guys like Landry Jones and Geno Smith will pick you apart.
Enter the front four and its fearless leader, Meshak Williams, or as he calls himself on Twitter, @shak_daddy42. I hope that's how he is referred to in practice as well. As far as I'm concerned, he can call himself whatever he wants after posting seven sacks in his debut season.
Obviously, that performance and his impressive speed off the line have earned him plenty of hype heading into his senior season, especially from friend of BOTC and prolific Big 12 blogger David Ubben. Now it's time for Williams to deliver with a breakout year that establishes him as one of the best lineman in the league, and perhaps the country.
As wildcatt00 astutely pointed out, K-State really hasn't had a consistently good lineman since Darren Howard in the late '90s, though an argument could be made for Ian Campbell.
Howard's dominance earned him back-to-back first-team all-conference honors, so honestly, it's hard to imagine Williams getting into that conversation after his impressive but not great year that got him named to the second team.
What, then, should we expect from Meshak? Clearly, it's going to depend some on how much help he gets from DE Adam Davis, and interior linemen Vai Lutui, John Sua and Javonta Boyd, who must put up enough resistance to keep constant double teams off Williams.
This seems achievable, in which case it doesn't seem completely unreasonable to think Meshak can reach double-digit sacks and 40+ tackles. Only eight players in the entire FBS achieved those stats last year, so yes, these are extremely high expectations. I'd like to think Meshak won't mind.
It's my humble opinion that based on the talent around him, Williams will need to be truly great for KSU's defense to truly be considered among the best in the conference, which is another ambitious but achievable goal. It would be wonderful to see a lot more Meshak making plays this year, and hopefully a lot more of his likable personality as well.