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Rapid Recap: Assessing the Spring progress of the Kansas State defense

6 min read
Rapid Recap: Assessing the Spring progress of the Kansas State defense


I began the Wednesday press conference with Kansas State defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman by asking him what was the big question that they had to answer in the Spring. His response was to address the depth in key areas.

It was out of their hands, but they were smacked hard by injuries in the back end of the defense last year, and the roof caved in for the K-State safety room. Because of that, teams had ways to exploit them at critical junctures of the game.

Klanderman noted that head coach Chris Klieman brought up that very topic in a recent meeting and how they needed to be better and more talented and prepared with their second and third group of players.

It isn’t just that a back-up plays 15 snaps a game. It is that they are one injury away or an eyelash away from being one of the more important players on the team. The Kansas State program will move forward, continue to grow and improve when they shore that part up even more.


Another part of spring ball that I wanted to learn about K-State was if the objective was to add more schematic wrinkles and adjustments to their operating system, determine and pinpoint more solutions for the depth chart or to really emphasize player development up and down the roster.

Rightfully so, Klanderman shared that it was likely a little bit of everything.

They do the double rep stuff a lot for the sole purpose of player development and to continue to stress the Kansas State players that may not be in the two-deep and give them a platform to still expand their knowledge and to ascend as potential contributors.

However, they also pull back and let off the accelerator a bit in the Spring for the players that have already seen a ton of snaps in their career. And that gives them some time to go back to some of the stuff they didn’t get to last season and add and implement it.


It was pretty well known already but Khalid Duke has switched back to the defensive end position and is back in the room under the charge of K-State assistant Buddy Wyatt. And I received strong and very good vibes about it from both of the Kansas State coaches.

They made it abundantly clear that he has been incredibly impressive in the spot and that it was certainly a natural spot for him. Although it wasn’t as seamless or as comfortable for him, he was playing a bit more linebacker the last few seasons because that’s how K-State could get their best 11 on the field.

But they are cutting him loose and giving him freedom to operate. They know he is best when the restrictions are pulled, and he isn’t forced into being a robot.

Not just Duke, but we learned that Colby McCalister has moved from cornerback to safety. In fact, he is seen a lot of time with the ones due to some guys being out of action, such as Kobe Savage. So, that could function differently when Kansas State is back to full strength.


When asked about their elevated recruiting profile and the increase of its effectiveness, Klanderman didn’t necessarily credit the recent Big 12 championship or the winning pedigree that they were beginning to establish in Manhattan.

Instead, he believes the culprit is that prospects know exactly who they are, and because of that, they are attracting the right guys. They aren’t a show that will purposefully provide a lot of glitz and glamour. K-State is more so looking for the ones that are willing and itching to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Because that is circulating, they’re identifying the right guys that fit into what they want to do as a program and as a culture. Additionally, because they are more comfortable with knowing what kind of athlete fits where, they are more effective in finding the right traits for both sides of the ball at every position.

Kameron Sallis/Kansas State Athletics


To my surprise, Klanderman also pointed out that all of the early enrollee true freshmen on the defensive side of the ball have a chance to be granted a role in the Fall, with the lone exception being linebacker Collin Dunn because he’s injured and missed some time.

That is a group that would include Chiddi Obiazor, Austin Romaine, Kameron Sallis and Wesley Fair.

Obiazor was praised in major fashion by both Klanderman and Wyatt. He’s also a guy that really took to the strength and conditioning segment of the offseason and added much more weight to his frame. His upside has grown even more.

Sallis probably received the second most compliments of the group as well, as he is seeing some considerable and significant practice reps at the safety spot for Kansas State. Romaine and Fair were probably the largest surprises just because I considered them to be projects.

However, Fair is likely a future captain with all the intangibles and work ethic in the world, so maybe it shouldn’t be shocking on that front.


We have covered that the Wildcats had great things to say about Duke and his switch back to having his hand in the dirt. The coaches have also been impressed with how Nate Matlack has recovered. He is moving around the field much better and is hungry to redeem what was a disappointing year for him last season.

On the interior, the noise around the Vanier Family Football Complex has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the loss of both Robert Hentz and Eli Huggins. Specifically in regards to Huggins, that is a dude that will be very tough to replace.

Huggins’ elite football IQ, sensational awareness and knack of making plays in big moments was a huge weapon for K-State last season. If anyone can keep up in that department, the one that has flashed in those aspects has been transfer addition Jevon Banks. Those are areas where he excels.

While Damian Ilalio is also steadily improving and will be a factor this year, the numero uno of the group seems to be Uso Seumalo. He is still learning how to play the sport and grasp the finer details of the position like pad level, but he is physically imposing and very explosive.


From my vantage point, this year’s linebackers at Kansas State form the best most talented group that they have had since I began covering the team in 2017. In fact, I’m not sure that it is particular close. The defensive coordinator certainly agreed.

He even shared that it was the most depth they’ve had at the spot, the most talent that they have had at the spot and also the most leadership that they have ever had at the spot. Klanderman took it to a different level, and it is hard to argue with any of that.

Certainly it helps that Daniel Green returned but also another fellow starter in Austin Moore.

Linebacker coach Steve Stanard wasn’t willing to gush about them as much as Klanderman and I, but he did say it was the best pair of starters they’ve had since he arrived. According to him, the rest is all potential that has yet to be realized.

However, he did glow about the growth and development of Desmond Purnell.


It seems like it has been a two-man show at cornerback for years at K-State. It’s difficult to remember the seasons before Julius Brents and Ekow Boye-Doe. They have been so durable and reliable throughout their careers.

Life without them will be interesting.

But Klanderman is bullish about that room. We won’t speak to Van Malone until next week, but the Kansas State defensive coordinator shared that it would likely be a by-committee approach at the spot for this season.

That isn’t because they have less answers and nobody as good as the two departing. That is more of a product because they have a lot more guys that can star in that role and are worthy of snaps and reps in the defensive backfield.

Some names tossed out were Keenan Garber, Omar Daniels, Jacob Parrish, Will Lee and Jordan Wright.

The post Rapid Recap: Assessing the Spring progress of the Kansas State defense appeared first on On3.

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