Unlike last year, we can’t cut and paste the offensive line preview from the previous season this time around. Last year, K-State had all five offensive linemen back, albeit from an offense that was fairly underwhelming in 2017.
In 2019, the Wildcats lose all-Big 12 right tackle Dalton Risner, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the NFL Draft. K-State also must replace Abdul Beecham, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent and was picked up by the Los Angeles Rams after the Chiefs waived him this week.
That’s a fair amount of talent to replace for an offense that ranked only 84th nationally by SP+ (nee S&P+). Not all of the offense’s woes can be laid at the feet of the line, and a more-coherent approach from the coaching staff should help the big guys up front. And lord knows the North Dakota State Way relies on line play. We know that all too well.
Senior Nick Kaltmayer (Edwardsville, Ill.) steps into Dalton Risner’s large shoes on the right side. With Risner remaining healthy last season, Kaltmayer played mostly on special teams last year. He started the Cactus Bowl in 2017 in a game where K-State gashed UCLA for more than 300 rushing yards. In what will become a pattern here, Kaltmayer earned academic all-Big 12 honors last season.
Kaltmayer’s understudy at right tackle is redshirt freshman Christian Duffie (Humble, Texas). The 6’5”, 297 lb. Duffie hails from the Houston suburbs.
My namesake, Tyler Mitchell (Bucksnort, Ala.) returns for his senior season. Mitchell has started 30 games in his K-State career, including 11 last season when he earned academic all-Big 12 honors. Our linemen are damn smart, at a minimum.
Sophomore Ben Adler, a 6’4” and 320-lb. man-mountain from Wichita, Kan., backs up Mitchell. The Trinity Academy product played late in the UTSA game last season.
Another senior, in this case 6’2” and 302-lb. Adam Holtorf (Seward, Neb., go Jays) returns for his third season as the starter in the middle. Holtorf has started 25 games at center the last two seasons and earned, what else, academic all-Big 12 honors last year. He’s already earned his bachelor’s degree and is working on his MBA.
Junior college transfer Noah Johnson (Wichita, Kan.) slots in behind Holtorf at center. The Bishop Carroll product spent the last two season at Butler CC and will likely see action this year as the new coaching staff gets a feel for their personnel and starts planning for the future.
Finally, senior Evan Curl (Flower Mound, Texas) gets his chance to start. Curl has been in the program for four years without starting a single game, seeing action on field goal protection and in mop-up duty.
Curl’s backup is Josh Rivas (Hutchinson, Kan.), a 6’3” and 323-lb. sophomore. Rivas started two games last season. This was apparently one of the closer position battles this fall, and Rivas will likely get his chances this season.
Once again, the starter at left tackle is one of the smarter fellas that Lawrence has produced: senior Scott Frantz. The 6’5” and 303-lb. product of Free State High School is the dean of the line with 38 starts in the last three years. Frantz has yet to earn all-conference recognition for his play, but is a three-time academic all-Big 12 selection.
Backing up Frantz is Kaitori Leveston (Waco, Texas), a 6’4” and 329-lb. redshirt freshman. The Midway High School product is unlikely to see a lot of action behind Frantz, but is definitely in K-State’s future plans.