The linebacker unit for 2015 is a bit of a work in progress. Gone are stalwarts Jonathan Truman and Dakorey Johnson, who managed to terrorize Big 12 offenses last year. But behind every cloud is a purple-and-silver lining. Partly due to injuries over the course of the season, a number of underclassmen saw significant playing time and can be expected to contribute this season.
The depth chart has been released and leaves little room for debate. Elijah Lee, easily the breakout star of the unit last year, is back. Although he only played situationally, the true freshman showed great speed and ability to blitz, recording 4.5 sacks, a freshman school record and a record for all Big 12 true freshmen last year. He's a pre-season Athlon All-Big 12 selection this year, but is looking to improve, even grading his own freshman outing at just "7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10."
Will Davis had many in his corner at the start of 2014, but a lack of closing speed and an inability to shoot the gap meant that the middle linebacker position, a traditional strength for Kansas State, was mostly a weakness. But nobody has stepped up this bring to take this role from Davis, so the job is his to lose.
Finally, back from an untimely injury break is Charmeachelle "Mike" Moore, who brings real live game-experience on the strong side, and some much needed depth too. It's not clear whether Moore will be an every-down sort of player or whether he's most effective when used in 3rd-and-long situations, but his presence as the group's senior leader should be a plus.
The true strength of the 2015 linebacking corps may be in depth rather than speed or size. A few players off the depth chart saw the field last year and will bring that experience to bear on this season as well. In particular, Trent Tanking who played in all 13 games as a backup last year should be able to contribute off the bunch. Also likely to contribute are Sam Sizelove, an impressive freshman who pushed Davis in practice, and Colborn Couchman, a special teams standout who has quietly cracked the depth chart on the strong side and should see some playing time this year.
This is a rebuilding year for the linebacking unit, so any Lynch Mob style expectations should be tabled. However, with a terrific secondary and a strong pass rush from the defensive line, the lack of experience in the middle might not matter as much. Look for the linebackers to be involved in run support, with Lee and maybe Tanking more active on obvious passing downs.