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31 DAYS TO 2023 KICKOFF: Jake Clifton

In which BracketCat counts down the 31st day until the 2023 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State linebacker Jake Clifton.

#31 Jake Clifton
Linebacker Jake Clifton (31) saw an unexpectedly large amount of playing time as a freshman reserve in 2022 and did not redshirt. He projects to be an integral part of the two-deep in 2023.
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

#31 Jake Clifton

True Sophomore | 6-2 | 222 lbs. | Owasso, Oklahoma
Jake Clifton
Jake Clifton
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Second-String
  • Status: On Scholarship

Jacob Clifton (b. Aug. 22, 2003) is a versatile, intelligent linebacker from Owasso High School in Oklahoma who did not redshirt in 2022 despite a deep linebacking corps.

Clifton, who is majoring in athletic training and rehab sciences, played in 11 games as a true freshman during the Big 12 Championship season, including each of the final nine contests.

He saw significant action on defense toward the end of the season, when he was in for at least 20 snaps in each of the final seven games.

Clifton totaled 12 tackles on the year, including a pair on kickoff coverage, and had a season-high four tackles against South Dakota and three against Oklahoma State, the latter against whom he saw time on a season-high 41 defensive snaps.

He also registered a pair of tackles at West Virginia and in the Big 12 Championship game against TCU, and enters 2023 potentially challenging Desmond Purnell for his starting spot.

Clifton prepped under head coach Bill Blankenship (a former coach of the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane) at Owasso, where he was viewed as the 85th-best outside linebacker and 20th-best player overall in the state of Oklahoma by ESPN.

He was named the 2021 District 6A1-2 co-Defensive Player of the Year as he led the Rams with 72 tackles, which included four sacks, and helped them to earn a state championship as a sophomore in 2019. He also competed in track and basketball.

Clifton chose K-State over scholarship offers from Air Force, Army, Colorado State, Georgetown, Illinois, Liberty, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, Tulsa and Washington State.

His primary recruiters were his position coach, linebackers coach Steve Stanard, and former wide receivers and then fullbacks/tight ends coach Jason Ray.

Here’s what head coach Chris Klieman had to say about Clifton’s still untapped potential:

He came and visited us in the summer. Coached by Bill Blankenship, and a number of us have known Coach Blankenship for an awful long time. One of the icons in the profession. Jake is a really fast linebacker. He plays really well in space and will strike you. Really smart kid, and we were excited to continue to add depth to the linebacker room.

And here’s assistant head coach and passing game coordinator Van Malone weighing in:

...being a younger guy, it’s kind of funny to put (Clifton) in the group with the older guys, but he’s played some good football and had some good snaps for us last season. I’ve been impressed with him...