The transfer portal has turned into a gaping chasm, pulling players in and flinging them out in new places. The Wildcats lost more than their fair share of players to the portal, but outside of Josh Youngblood (the only true loss to the portal) the players lost have transferred down, not up. Meanwhile, Kansas State has already brought in three key pieces to fortify the defense.
Eric Munoz is one of those additions.
Honored to announce that I will be furthering my education and athletic career at Kansas State University. Appreciate all the love and support from everyone who helped me get here. #Gowildacts— Eric Munoz (@EricMunoz21) December 21, 2020
Psalm 37:7 pic.twitter.com/pQKrTbOd1d
What He Brings to the Defense
Linebacker is one of the positions on the roster in desperate need of reinforcements. Justin Hughes and Elijah Sullivan provided the Wildcats with two rocks in the middle of the defense. At the same point, that doesn’t guarantee the linebacker position takes a step back in 2021. While Hughes and Sullivan are both hard nosed, experienced players; physically the position can upgraded.
Daniel Green is the obvious replacement for Hughes, and I’ve always contended that physically, he’s the best linebacker on the roster. He’s a hard hitter with solid range and a nose of the ball. He’ll patrol the middle of the defense next season if things go according to plan, and I think it’s an upgrade in terms of run defense. In fact, Green had more tackles for loss and sacks than Hughes and Sullivan combined last season. While the next man up in the middle is obvious, the replacement for Sullivan was less clear.
That brings me to Eric Munoz.
Sullivan, in essence, was a hybrid safety/linebacker in the defense. He was able to hold up in coverage and get outside and make tackles on the perimeter. Munoz is a similar player. Although listed as an inside linebacker, I anticipate Munoz replacing Sullivan’s speed and coverage ability, while providing an upgrade in run support.
What stands out to me the most is closing speed. He has an extra gear in the last 3-5 yards that catch offensive players off guard. Quarterbacks think they can outrun him right until he hits them. He can also get outside on the stretch play and use his explosion to slash into a gap and get the running back on the ground.
He’ll make an excellent foil next to the aggressive, hard hitting Green. I like the speed that has been added at linebacker with Jay Harris from the 2020 class, and Krew Jackson and Davonte Pritchard from the 2021 class, but they need room to grow into the position and Munoz gives them that luxury.
I love this addition to the defense, and it shows the coaching staff has a firm grasp of roster management. I wrote an article about there being a “hole” in the roster because of the recruiting and player retention at the end of Coach Snyder’s tenure. This is how you fill those gaps. When you have a predominantly “developmental” program, you need a balanced roster, because you’re not going to get many “plug and play” freshmen...or redshirt freshmen. Throwing a bunch of freshmen on the field who aren’t ready yet is a good way to get fired before you get a chance to develop them.
Munoz is a solid player. I don’t think he’s a game changer, but his ability to fill the gap in the roster, provide an experienced option next to Green, and allow the young guys time is a crucial piece of the puzzle.