capture

Mondays at The Salute

Mondays at The Salute

Tim Colston. Mark Simoneau. Terence Newman. They are names that are synonomous with purple-clad defensive dominance. The mere mention of their names to Wildcat faithful will bring smiles and stories of yesteryear. The are names known at every tailgate in Manhattan. But does anyone know the names of the players who may fuel a Wildcat run at the first ever College Football Playoff?

—–

Bill Snyder’s squads first entered relevancy on the backs of Thomas Randolph and Jamie Mendez. They’re two of the best defensive backs in program history and both earned All-American honors while helping the Wildcats earn just their second bowl bid in program history in 1993.

Danzel McDaniel celebrates his pick-6 against Oklahoma

Danzel McDaniel celebrates his pick-6 against Oklahoma

The 2014 Wildcats currently have the third best passing defense in the Big 12, allowing just 220 passing yards per game. They’ve achieved that mark with a defensive backfield of Travis Green (pre-injury), Randall Evans, Morgan Burns, Danziel McDaniel, Dante Barnett and Dylan Schellenberg. Green, Evans, Burns, McDaniel, Barnett, and Schellenberg; present that list of names to random Manhattanites and many would guess they belong to an ever-expanding law firm, rather than one of the nation’s top defenses.

—–

Wildcat defenses took the next steps toward dominance with standouts like Darren Howard and Jeff Kelly. These near-literal wrecking crews from the late 90s seized the “Lynch Mob” nickname while terrorizing opposing offenses. In 1998, Kelly led an effort that limited Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams to just 43 rushing yards on 25 carries.Safe to say, clips from that contest were absent from Williams’ Heisman highlight video.

Travis Britz

Travis Britz

In 2014, K-State ranks second in the Big 12 in both rushing defense (101 yards allowed per game) and opponents’ first downs (18 allowed per game). That effort begins up front, where Ryan Mueller – the closest thing the Wildcats have to a “name” player – makes his home. Mueller earned second team All-American honors last season, but has been somewhat overshadowed on the defensive line in 2014. Travis Britz may not be a household name, but he’s been breaking through offensive lines to block kicks and blow up running plays like a sentient wrecking ball. Valentino Coleman, Will Geary and Jordan Willis have further fortified the effort, giving the Cats a line that will knock you backward whether you know their names or not.

—–

In 2003 and 2012, Snyder’s defenses won championships behind names like Josh Buhl and Arthur Brown. Both were uber-athletic linebackers. Both featured the speed of defensive backs. Both had an uncanny ability and desire to hit pretty much anything that moved.

Jonathan Truman makes a tackle against Texas

Jonathan Truman makes a tackle against Texas

There’s a linebacker who stands in the middle of the Big 12’s top scoring defense (18.6 points allowed per game), top total defense (321 total yards allowed per game), and top red zone defense (allowing opponents to score on just 71.4% of their red zone chances). His name is Jonathan Truman, which sounds like he should be up for election on Tuesday rather than chasing down running backs on Saturdays. Truman is a former walk-on. While he lacks the athleticism of a Buhl or Brown, he has that same desire to hit anything that moves. He’s the sort of player who may not have been given an opportunity to succeed in other major programs. At K-State, however, he’s averaging over nine tackles per game, good for third in the conference. He’s teaming at linebacker with Dakorey Johnson, a senior whose only contributions had come on special teams prior to 2014, and Elijah Lee, a true freshman.

—–

K-State has the No. 1 defense in the Big 12. It’s a phrase you’ve heard before, but perhaps never with such anonymity. They’re shutting down runs, breaking up passes, and turning in big-time plays, all with a list of guys who might not prompt the slightest hint of recognition among casual fans. The nation may not know who these guys are, but opposing offenses have been finding out. On Saturday, No. 6 TCU is next in line.

About The Author

Hi, I’m Derek Larson. You might remember me from such autobiographical blurbs as “Yo Soy Derek” and “Paste Blurb Here.” I was born and raised in the Manhattan area and I graduated from Kansas State University in 2005. Now I’m now adjusting to life in the land of husking corn. My groom’s cake was a Powercat and I was once convinced that the future of Wildcat basketball was a seven-foot volleyball player. I’ve written about K-State sports in different capacities, often without people asking me to. My hobbies include bringing more purple to Lincoln, Neb., and making vague (and not-so-vague) references to The Simpsons. Follow me on Twitter at @dereklarson.

Related Posts