The defensive line remains the area I'm most concerned about for Kansas State heading into fall camp. I'll be the first to admit it probably has something to do with the fact that I find offensive and defensive linemen, especially on the interior, to be the least interesting positions in football.
Sure, I can sort of understand and appreciate the vital role they play and know the rewards of having great players as well as the consequences of having bad ones, but that's about it. If you asked me to name K-State's defensive tackles during my lifetime, well, I would probably awkwardly change the subject.
It's safe to say Vai Lutui and John Sua weren't often referred to as the strengths of KSU's defense in 2012, but they generally did their jobs admirably. Lutui especially found his way into the backfield on occasion, and though the pass rush was sometime nonexistent, the run defense held its own in most cases against largely pass-first opponents.
In my mind, expectations for Travis Britz are considerably lower than they were for a guy like Ryan Mueller, even if neither really has done anything on their own to deserve those standards. It's more about the standard set by the guys ahead of them last season, at least in my mind.
Of course, the lack of experience and possibly talent around Britz at defensive end and linebacker means it would be much more useful for him rise up and become a major contributor. The good news is there's some real reason to believe it can happen without having to put too much purple tint on your classes.
He utterly dominated Missouri Class 4 competition as a senior at Harrionsville High in 2011, and from freshman to sophomore seasons is where college athletes often make their biggest progressions. Britz had a solid spring and the mere fact that he played in 11 games as a true freshman tells us he's something a little special in the eyes of the coaching staff.
This is a big man with some decent speed who may still be adjusting to playing with his 293-pound frame, which means hopefully adding strength and quickness. The three nonconference games against likely smaller opponents with less depth should be a good warmup, but he may want to be at his best by the time KSU gets to Texas.
What would be great to see is a few tackles for loss early to build his confidence, then just a solid and occasionally disruptive presence in the middle of the line. I would probably make the case that Britz is the defensive lineman with the most potential for a big breakout season, but clearly I'm not one who should be trusted on such matters.