At the top of the depth chart, the linebacker corps might be one of the most experienced units on the whole roster. For the 2020 Kansas State Wildcats, this should be a very good thing. It does leave a bit of a hole for the future (unless one of those guys wants to hang around for their extra year of eligibility), but that’s next year’s problem.
After missing all of last season with a spring injury, Justin Hughes is back for his 6th season in Manhattan (7th since graduating high school, as he was originally a greyshirt) and is looking to pick back up where he left off at the end of the 2018 season, where he started the final seven games. Hughes is a leader in the locker room, and getting him back on the field to help lead the defense should help Joe Klanderman in his adjustment to defensive coordinator and make new linebackers coach Steve Stannard’s job easier.
His primary partner in crime will be Elijah Sullivan, entering his fifth season at K-State. Sullivan has seen time in every season with the Wildcats, except for his redshirt year in 2015, and was expected to be the breakout player in 2018, before an injury cut his season short. But he returned to form in 2019, and started all 13 games for K-State en-route to an Honorable Mention nod on the All-Big 12 Team.
Next up is a bit of a battle. Cody Fletcher is a senior who saw action in the final seven games of 2019 after recovering from a spring injury. He’s primarily been a special teams player, but he saw significant action at linebacker against both Texas and Texas Tech. Daniel Green is a talented sophomore, who saw action in all 13 games last year as a reserve and on special teams, and notably had probably his best game of the season against Mississippi State in the Wildcat victory. Green was highly-touted out of high school, and will be part of the future at linebacker once Sullivan and Hughes graduate.
There’s a couple of incoming freshman that look very promising in Demarrquese Hayes and Jay Harris. The pair of Texans had pretty solid accolades coming out of high school, and both played in the state championship in their division. With so much experience above them, it’s likely both won’t see any more action than the four-game cap for a redshirt, but anything is possible. There’s also redshirt-freshman Levi Archer from northwest Kansas, who at 6’3” 217 is the biggest athlete of the group. He saw action in two games in 2019 before being injured (definitely a negative theme of the linebacker corps), but is someone that will see action on special teams, and might pick up a few minutes in a reserve role.
There are also eight (!) walk-ons at linebacker, led by Nick Allen, who saw action in all 13 games last year, mostly on special teams, but did play in a reserve role against Bowling Green. Like many other positions, nearly all the walk-ons are from Kansas, and the two that aren’t are from the Missouri side of the greater Kansas City metro.