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97 DAYS TO 2022 KICKOFF: Nate Matlack

In which BracketCat counts down the 97th day until the 2022 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State defensive end Nate Matlack.

#97 Nate Matlack
Nate Matlack (97) showed flashes of big things down the stretch in 2021. Now he should be part of a fearsome foursome at defensive end that will strike fear into the hearts of opposing QBs.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

#97 Nate Matlack

Redshirt Sophomore | 6-5 | 242 lbs. | Olathe, Kansas
Nate Matlack
Nate Matlack
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Defensive End
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Starter (3-3-5) / Second-String (4-2-5)
  • Status: On Scholarship

Nate Matlack (b. March 12, 2002) is a promising young defensive end who some recruiting services indicated was the most talented and athletic prospect in K-State’s Class of 2020.

This bore out in 2021, when he was one of the top defensive freshmen in the Big 12 after coming on strong toward the end of the year to earn votes from the league’s coaches for the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award.

Matlack played in every game last season, with starts in each of the final three contests as he finished second on the team with 3.5 sacks and seventh with 5.5 tackles for loss.

He had a season-best two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble in consecutive games against West Virginia and Baylor, while his contest against the Mountaineers included a career-high four total tackles.

Matlack also had three tackles and his first career full sack against Texas Tech, while he broke up a pass at Kansas. He was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 honoree in 2021.

Matlack, who redshirted and did not see any game action in 2020, seems likely to start at defensive end in 2022 opposite Felix Anudike-Uzomah, due to the spring graduation of Kirmari Gainous, exhausted eligibility of Bronson Massie, medical retirement of Spencer Trussell and conversion of Khalid Duke to hybrid linebacker in the 3-3-5 stack alignment.

(When K-State lines up in the more traditional 4-2-5, however, it’ll probably be Anudike-Uzomah and Duke at the two end positions, with Matlack the first reserve off the bench.)

Matlack picked K-State over offers from Air Force, Boise State, Illinois State, Kansas, Northern Illinois, Syracuse, TCU and Texas Tech, as well as interest from Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Rutgers, Southern Illinois, UCLA and Wisconsin. His primary recruiter was defensive ends coach Buddy Wyatt, with help from former defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton and quarterbacks coach Collin Klein.

Matlack, who played for Olathe High School East under head coach Jesse Owen, was rated the 30th-best weakside defensive end in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports, while he was viewed as the fifth-best prospect in the state of Kansas by ESPN and No. 6 by Rivals.

According to 247Sports, he is the third-highest-rated defensive end the Wildcats have ever signed. Sports in Kansas described Matlack, who has 4.6 to 4.7 speed with a 41-inch vertical jump, as “one of the biggest freak athletes in high school football in Kansas.”

A first-team senior all-state performer by The Topeka Capital-Journal and The Wichita Eagle, Matlack helped to lead the Hawks to a 7-3 record and a trip to the state playoffs in 2019.

He prepped with current K-State tight end Andrew Sonner and signed with the Wildcats during the early signing period in December 2019, planning to major in personal finance.

Asked about the impact of Matlack’s joining the 2020 class early, K-State head coach Chris Klieman said it was “huge. Nate has been a catalyst for Taylor Braet and continuing to bring in other guys in the fold and communicating with them through social media.”

Klieman also had high praise for the Matlacks: “Nate’s a tremendous football player, a better kid from a great family. They love K-State and want to be a part of K-State. We need guys from the state of Kansas, from Kansas City specifically. We need guys that want to be a part of K-State football because there are such great players in that region, as well as the state.”