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2016 Kansas State Position Preview: Linebackers

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This could be one of the best units in the entire conference

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

In last year’s preview, we described the linebackers as a bit of a work in progress, and the 2015 season bore that out. The linebackers were the most productive defensive unit for Kansas State last year, but overall team struggles masked any obvious success. This season, nearly the same unit returns to the field, only faster, healthier, and hungrier.

Starters

Elijah Lee remains the obvious star of the unit. He led the team with 80 tackles, and was generally a terror in the middle last season in run support and on passing downs. In 2015, he became the first underclassman linebacker since Mark Simoneau to be all-conference, and now he’s been named to the preseason all-Big 12 team and to the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Butkus Award watch lists.

He’ll be joined by a resurgent Charmeachelle Moore who played only sparingly in the aftermath of his father’s death, but came into his own towards the end of the 2015 season. He ultimately registered 55 tackles, including 17 against West Virginia, for which he was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. Like Lee, Moore has been named to Butkus Award watch list, and if form holds, the two should be a force to reckon with again.

Rounding out the group is Will Davis who fell a bit short of expectation last season, and was ultimately pushed down the depth chart by Moore. He still managed to record 54 tackles on the season, and a key interception deep in Kansas State territory against Oklahoma State kept the game within reach for the Wildcats.

This spring, the three players competed fiercely with one another, and all three believe the competition will help them play better come game time (Kellis Robinett, Kansas City Star).

Backups

The linebacking corps may also be the one unit with plenty of depth this season. During spring practice, Bill Snyder took special note of Sam Sizelove and Trent Tanking, noting that “[w]e probably have five or six guys in the linebacker group right now that fit in quite well.”

Colborn Couchman, a senior who plays almost exclusively on special teams, may also see the field as a backup this season.

Outlook

Lee is widely regarded as the best player on Kansas State’s defense, a unit described as “not pretty” and “tough as nails.” (Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports). If either of these epithets turns out to be true, we may have the makings of something special in Manhattan this year. This unit may be the best linebacking corps to wear purple since Arthur Brown and Justin Tuggle roamed the field.