There's no need to rehash here just how much of a concern defensive line play is this year, and why it's imperative one or (preferably) multiple linemen prove to be better than their track record indicates. All of that has been covered pretty well in various articles or even comment threads on this very site.
Instead, let's focus on what defensive end Chaquil Reed needs to do to be that guy that rises to the challenge. He's certainly got the look of a dominant defensive lineman at 6-3, 309, even if he doesn't really have the credentials to back it up.
Still, he did rack up 43 tackles and five sacks in his final year at Butler Community College in 2011. Then he started for the first team defense in the spring game, though his 2.5 tackles aren't likely to really impress anyone.
We've seen KSU defensive lines that occasionally allow holes up the middle big enough to drive trucks through in the past, though it's been a little while. That just can't happen with Johnathan Gray/Malcolm Brown, Jeremy Smith and Lache Seastrunk lining up against the 'Cats in the first 3 weeks of Big 12 play.
Those guys will make you pay if they get into the open field, especially Seastrunk, so it's up to Reed and others to ensure the gaps are adequately filled. But of course, I'm not just asking Reed to avoid being terrible.
To really make a splash in his senior season, Reed would need to collect a few sacks and get to the point where he's a constant nuisance for opposing quarterbacks. K-State ranked second only to Texas in the Big 12 with 32 sacks last year, and Reed will need to do his part to make sure the Wildcats don't see a huge dropoff.
I'm a believer in the holes being filled in the secondary, so if the pass defense goes poorly, I'll probably be inclined to blame the defensive line. After all, why bother gaining 19 pounds to grow to an enormous 309 if it's not going to make you a much better player?
That's really my best reason to hope Reed will make a significant leap this season, considering my knowledge of defensive line play is limited at best. But even I know if he comes to play and forces teams to start doubling him on the line or run to the other side, it would be a huge boost for K-State's unproven defense.
Previously in this series: