Going through the depth chart like this helps me get a decent overall feel for things. This depth chart screams speed over size. Almost every position group is slightly under sized but not under-speeded (I made that word up). They should be flying around the field creating coveted “havoc” plays.
The trade-off, of course, is stopping the run. What happens when Kansas State plays a team like...Kansas State. Can the undersized D-Line hold up against a power run game looking to take the fast guys and bury them under an avalanche of offensive linemen? More importantly, can they hold up the entire season, or will they wear down after getting beat on by bigger players all season.
Getting Uso back and healthy will be key. It won’t matter against SEMO (although they are a solid running team), but having a giant in the middle to dissuade A gap runs will come in handy against Big 12 teams capable of grinding it out on the ground. Having Daniel Green’s sledgehammer in the middle should help with that as well.
If I’m an offensive coordinator, I’m running directly at this defense in hopes of wearing them down and busting something up the middle, because running away from them is futile. I like the speed and overall athletisism, and trust Joe Klanderman to put a salty group on the field. My only concern is this group wearing down as the season progresses. That won’t be an issue in week 1.
#29 - Khalid Duke - Sr. - 6’4”, 246
#97 - Nate Matlack - Jr. - 6’5”, 249
Duke has bounced from defensive end, to linebacker, and now back to defensive end. I understand the desire to have him at linebacker, but he’s best coming off the edge and beating tackles off the snap. He’s going to have to hold up against the run. Matlack looked like he was the next big thing at defensive end at one point, but his career has sorta stalled because of injury. He’ll look to stay healthy and rebuild his early momentum this season.
#56 - Damian Ilalio - So. - 6’1”, 296
#92 - Jevon Banks - Jr. - 6’2”, 290
With the massive Uso Seumalo out with a lower leg injury, the starting spot gets an “or” designation. Ilalio is the home town football and wrestling star outplaying his ranking and Banks is a recent transfer from Mississippi State who was looking for more consistent playing time. No offense to either guy, but if I’m the opposing coach, I’m running it in the A gap and seeing if these guys can hold up for 4 quarters.
I think both of these guys are excellent depth pieces and change of pace defensive tackles, but Uso needs to get and stay healthy.
#38 - Brendan Mott - Sr. - 6’5”, 244
#47 - Cody Stufflebean - Jr. - 6’4”, 257
A revelation in 2023, Mott, a former walk-on, picked up playing time when Nate Matlack was slowed with injuries and made the most of his time. His 8 tackle, 3 tackle for loss, 3 sack performance against West Virginia was one of the better defensive games I’ve seen anyone have, on any team in a while. He slowed down towards the end of the season, only recording 2 tackles in the last 3 games. He’ll need to prove he can hold up to a starter’s workload.
Stufflebean came in as a development guy, now is the time for him to show off that development. It would be nice if he could take some snaps off Mott’s workload to keep him fresh.
Strong Side Linebacker
#32 - Desmond Purnell - So. - 5’11”, 224
#44 - Tobi Osunsanmi - RS-Fr. - 6’3”, 233
When the 6’0”, 190 pound “athlete” Desmond Purnell signed with K-State, I didn’t anticipate this being his landing spot. He’s bulked up to a big safety at this point, it would be nice if he could make it to small linebacker at some point. What he brings is speed and coverage skills to the linebacker group. He played well last year when called upon last season, and has earned this spot with an exceptional camp. Osunsanmi is a former 3* recruit looking to make his first appearance. He’s a high level athlete and has decent size for the position.
#22 - Daniel Green - Sr. - 6’3”, 245
#31 - Jake Clifton - So. - 6’2”, 222
#45 - Austin Romaine - Fr. - 6’2”, 238
Daniel Green is back for another season after an injury plagued 2022. This defense needs a thumper in the middle and Green fills that role nicely. He’s back for one last ride, and if he stays healthy, he should lead the team in tackles. Behind him are Clifton, who was called into duty as a true freshman and acquitted himself well and Austin Romaine, a true freshman Austin Romaine, who physically is ready to go straight out of the box. Clifton will see the majority of the work, but Romaine looks like he’s worked his way out of a redshirt. Look for him on special teams as well while he adjusted to the speed of the college game.
Weak Side Linebacker
#41 - Austin Moore - Sr. - 6’1”, 219
#23 - Asa Newsome - Fr. - 6’3”, 217
#57 - Beau Palmer - Jr. - 6’2”, 230
Moore, the second former walk-on on the first team defense, came out of nowhere to lead the Wildcats in tackles last season. He lived in the opponents back field, registering 10 tackles for loss on the season. Like Purnell, Moore is small for a linebacker, but he flies around the field and makes plays. Asa Newsome is is similar to Moore. He’s a speed linebacker that wouldn’t be out of place at strong safety in most defenses. Palmer is a nice third option and brings a counter balance of size to the group. His biggest contributions will probably be on special teams, but he’s a nice option to have in reserve. Newsome is the future, but Palmer could be a better solution to a “now” problem because of his experience.
#10 - Jacob Parrish - So. - 5’10”, 183
#1 - Keenan Garber - Sr. - 6’0”, 184
K-State had one of the better corner duos in the nation last season. It’s going to be hard to meet the standard 1st round NFL pick Josh Brents and Ekow-Boye-Doe set last season. Parrish was a late addition to the class of 2022, and he’s carved out a spot at the top of the depth chart already. Like Boye-Doe, he could be considered slightly undersized but he makes up for it with his speed and toughness. Receivers are going to have to fight for every catch with Parrish on the field.
Garber started his career as a wide receiver but was thrust into duty as a corner late in the season. He managed 21 snaps in the Big 12 Championship game and acquitted himself well. He’s most likely the third corner, and should be on the field a good deal.
#2 - Kobe Savage - Sr. - 5’11”, 207
#30 - Matthew Maschmeier - Jr. - 6’0”, 209
Back after an injury robbed him of the last few games of 2022, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and 2nd Team All-Big 12 safety should be back to his menacing best at strong safety. When Kobe hits you, you stay hit; he’s a savage. One of the cool things about K-State football is every position is up for grabs. That’s how you end up with someone like Maschmeier, a guy I vaguely knew was on the roster, in the opening 2 deeps. The former walk-on from Illinois was an asset on special teams last season and will be this season as well.
#19 - VJ Payne - So. - 6’3”, 200
#36 - Jack Fabris - Fr. - 6’2”, 185
#24 - Trey Krause - So. - 6’1”, 195
Payne, hit the ground running as a true freshman last season, playing in all 14 games and starting 4, including the Big 12 Championship and the Sugar Bowl. I’m not surprised he was ready after playing for Georgia High School powerhouse Buford. He spent his entire high school career practicing against 4* and 5* guys. This season he could be the break out star on the back end for the ‘Cats, much like Savage was last season. The back-up spot gets the “Or” with Jack Fabris and Trey Krause splitting the distinction. Fabris played football just down the road from me at North Oconee High School. His dad is a long time college football assistant, and served two stints at K-State under Bill Snyder. No surprise his son is ready to go as a freshman. Krause is yet another walk-on making the 2 deeps. The former Olathe West star had a great camp, impressing the coaching staff with his understanding of the system and overall toughness. He’ll be a key special teams guy at minimum.
#21 - Marques Sigle - Jr. - 5’11”, 197
#0 - Jordan Wright - RS-Jr. - 5’11”, 178
#20 Colby McCalister - RS-Fr. - 5’10, 193
Looking to be the next great transfer safety for K-State, Sigle, a North Dakota State transfer has himself on top of the depth chart coming off his first K-State camp. He’ll need to adjust to the speed of the game and players in the Big 12, but the coaching staff is confident he’s ready to go, and they’ve nailed they’re safety evaluations in the past. Jordan Wright is a junior-college transfer moving from corner to safety. Like Sigle, he’ll have to adjust to the overall speed of the game, but should give the K-State nice coverage ability in the back end of the defense. McCalister was a high school corner moving over to safety as well. All of these guys can cover, run support and tacking will be their biggest questions.
#8 - Will Lee - So. - 6’3”, 185
#5 - Justice James - RS-Jr. - 5’10”, 199
The staff enjoyed having a 6’3” corner last season so much that they went out and found another one. Lee was considered one of the top JuCo defensive backs available and will try and do his best Julius Brents impersonation this season. He’ll be locked up on the opponents boundary receiver. James is yet another JuCo transfer, coming out of Tyler JC, the same JC that brought us Kobe Savage. He has nice size for a corner, and solid JuCo experience. He’ll be ready to go.