It was asked by a commenter recently in this series how many former walk-ons have earned starting time during Bill Snyder's second tenure. Well, here's another name we'll probably be able to add on to that list very soon.
Ryan Mueller seems to be the best bet to give K-State at least something like what Meshak Williams and Adam Davis offered last year. Mueller clearly doesn't offer the speed of either one of those guys, but then again, few defensive ends in the Big 12 do.
What he does have is an impressive amount of experience for a
senior redshirt junior looking for his first start vs. NDSU and what I believe is often referred by coaches and talent evaluators as a "constant motor." He won the team's Nancy Bennett Memorial Award for "fight, spirit and positive nature," which should probably tell you all you need to know about his determination and readiness to play a more vital role this season.
Whether that actually translates to him becoming an elite player this season is another matter. Fair or not, nothing less than an All-Big 12 performance would really make 2013 a "breakout year" for Mueller, considering he has already done some good things (most notably recovering fumbles in the 2012 Cotton Bowl and vs. Miami and Oklahoma last season) while playing behind two all-league players.
Sure, it's been said Mueller is "undersized" at 6-2, 245, but that actually makes him very close to the same size and weight as his two predecessors. I certainly doubt he'll be using that as an excuse, and personally one of my favorite parts of line play is when the smaller guys can use their quickness and smarts to get around the behemoths on the offensive line.
Pass defense is certainly a strength, so probably the biggest question for Mueller is if he can withstand the constant beating that comes with being a starting defensive lineman and prevent offenses from manhandling him on running plays. There are plenty of teams in the Big 12 more than happy to take advantage of a weak defensive end by running the ball outside with speed.
Even with the addition of big Devon Nash, Mueller figures to get his shot to become a force on an defensive line that could easily be one of the weakest parts of this Kansas State team. Here's hoping his positivity and perseverance doesn't have a Jeff Francoeur-like ceiling.*
*Off-topic: I wish I could say I was surprised or disappointed by KC's current 5-game losing streak, but quite frankly, I would have been shocked if anything else had happened. It's July, and the Royals are just now fading out of contention. This is actually progress.
Previously in this series:
Boston Stiverson/Cody Whitehair