As they do nearly every season, Bill Snyder and the Kansas State coaching staff have turned to the junior college ranks in the hopes of finding Division I ready players capable of putting on a uniform and contributing right away. It's a bit of a risky business, but often a necessary one that has certainly played a big role in Snyder's successes.
Maybe the most accomplished and promising player of this year's juco class - with the exception of Jake Waters - is Devon Nash, a very athletic defensive end who actually played with Waters at Iowa Western. He earned All-American honors and is listed at 6-5, 260, which would make him considerably larger than either Meshak Williams or Adam Davis.
It would probably be foolish to expect him to possess the quickness of one of those fellow juco transfers, but he does appear to have some decent athletic ability. He made 36 tackles, notched four sacks, and even returned an interception for a touchdown last season.
This is a big man capable of making a big difference, though he'll likely need a special fall to even crack the starting lineup. That being said, he'll get his chances either way.
Still, I think for a guy who was this good in juco and has the kind of skillset he has, anything less than an All-Conference type year wouldn't really qualify him as a player who rose to the challenge. As far as I can tell, Nash has a long way to go, but it's not out of reach.
The ‘Cats really need a big presence up front to pressure the quareterback, preferably coming from the defensive end position. Of course, he'll also have to know how to handle the spread offenses and the zone read in the Big 12.
I'm mostly guessing here, but playing within the defense and be aware of the importance of containment and patience would seem likely to be the thing most likely to hold back this season. I don't think there's much doubt he's got the talent and body to play at this level, especially relative to K-State's other options at defensive end.
Of course, the biggest downside for juco players is that with the exception of the rare redshirt, they're only here for two years. That means if a highly touted player like Nash doesn't perform much as a junior, he's almost destined to be considered a "miss" or average at best as far as recruiting, unless he has a monster senior year.
If nothing else, Nash's imposing presence on the field should draw some attention, both from fans who watch the line play (i.e. not me) and opposing players. I certainly wouldn't want to be a quarterback in his way.
Previously in this series: