Jarard Milo, Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone combined for 190 tackles to go along with 10 of K-State's 18 interceptions (5 each for Chapman/Malone) a year ago as seniors in a secondary that honestly still could have been better at times, though it was not a fun season to be a defensive back in the Big 12. Now that all three of them are gone, Bill Snyder and his coaching staff have some pretty big holes to fill, assuming it's still not possible or legal to clone Ty Zimmerman.
It's pretty safe to say you'll see multiple defensive backs featured in this series, and I'm not sure the order will indicate me trying to predict who is more likely to have a breakout season or anything else. It's always a bit of a guessing game anyway, and more than any other position on defense, it seems like a defensive back can make a name for himself or get an inflated reputation on just one or two plays.
Still, I don't think we can begin with anyone else other than Randall Evans, the only non-starter* in the secondary to intercept a pass last season, even if it did come on what may have been Nick Florence's dumbest pass of the year. Primarily, the former walk-on more than proved himself as a tackler, recording 76 to rank third on the team and lead all returners by a considerable margin.
*OK, this isn't exactly true, since K-State frequently had to start its nickel package with 3 defensive backs against spread offenses in the pass-happy Big 12. The point is he remained third on the depth chart all season long, though that's hardly a sign of weakness when the two guys ahead of you are as good as Malone and Chapman.
Evans had done next to nothing his first two seasons and suddenly became one of the ‘Cats' more valuable assets on defense, largely thanks to his speed and ability to be in the right place at the right time. Honestly, the progress he's already made since arriving in Manhattan from Miami - where he picked off 12 passes in his last two years of high school - is already quite impressive and makes it kind of unfair to demand more.
Not for the last time, though, I must ask you to remember what we've lost. The Big 12's top four passers may be gone, but history tells us we'll still see some formidable air attacks in the upcoming season.
It's a huge leap to go from nickel back/3rd best corner to #1 guy, where you'll be asked to guard some of the most talented wide receivers in the land. It won't be easy for a guy who is only 6 feet tall to match up to some of those big, scary wideouts, but at least he should be able to keep up with most of them in a foot race.
Rest assured that he'll get the chance to earn that spot, and don't bother telling him he doesn't have the talent or size to handle it. He's getting the chance David Garrett perhaps deserved but never got, with the opportunity to cap off an awe-inspiring career and eliminate what's perceived to be one of the biggest weaknesses on this team.
Evans told the KC Star last August that he wanted to become an All-American and get five interceptions to go along with "maybe 60 tackles." He got the last of those goals a year ago, and he'll get another chance to complete the trifecta as a junior.
Previously in this series:
Boston Stiverson/Cody Whitehair