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NFL Draft 2018: Trent Tanking

The former walk-on embodied Bill Snyder’s philosophy of constant improvement.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Player

Trent Tanking, ILB | Height: 6’2” | Weight: 225 lbs.

Trent Tanking was the kind of player that coaches, commentators, and fans love in college football, rising from an unheralded walk-on to team captain. Unrated as a recruit coming out of Holton High School, Tanking joined K-State as a preferred walk-on, spurning offers from Division II schools. He redshirted in 2013, then saw action primarily on kickoff coverage his first three years. In the 2016 regular-season finale against TCU, he played most of the snaps at linebacker, tallying five solo tackles and an interception in his first prolonged action on defense.

As a senior in 2017, he assumed a major role in the defense, being selected as a defensive captain and starting all 13 games at middle linebacker. He finished second on the team with 97 tackles. Tanking recorded 9 or more tackles in seven different games, highlighted by his 13 tackles and 1 forced fumble against TCU in mid-October. Big 12 coaches named him to the all-conference honorable mention, while Phil Steele selected him as a third team all-conference choice.

In addition to his work on the field, Tanking was an excellent student, earning a 4.0 GPA in high school and being a three-time First Team Academic All-Big 12 selection. As a senior, he was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy — the “Academic Heisman.”

The Draft Outlook

First, the negatives: Tanking is undersized for an NFL linebacker, but the good news is that can be fixed. What will present a bigger problem for him is his foot speed. While certainly more athletic than the general population, his speed was average at best for a Power 5 linebacker, and things just speed up at the NFL level.

On the other hand, Tanking has an excellent understanding of the game. As a senior, he always seemed to be right where he needed to be. He was virtually never lost or out of position on defense. You don’t have to catch up to someone if you always keep them in front of you. What’s more, he was a sure tackler in space. Of his 97 tackles in 2017, only 26 were assisted.

Tanking barely registers as a blip on draft prognosticators’ radar, so don’t be surprised if he goes undrafted. He could sign as an undrafted free agent with a team that needs some cheap depth at linebacker, but my guess is he ends up on a practice squad somewhere. If he has a path to the NFL, it is probably by impressing coaches enough in practice that he gets called up when his team has injuries at linebacker.

What I’m saying is it’s an uphill climb — much like his climb to a starting spot as team captain.

And if the NFL doesn’t work out for Tanking, he could be a great coach somewhere with his combination of smarts and understanding of the game.

The 2018 NFL Draft will be held from April 26 to 28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Live television coverage begins at 7 PM CDT on April 26.