4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE KANSAS STATE DEFENSE
– The defense was good enough, and it should be better. The pass defense was among the Big 12’s best, the run D was okay, and overall, finishing fourth in the offensive-loaded conference was fine. Now there needs to be a pass rush with five starters returning under new defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton. The key to Hazelton’s coaching style? Takeaways. The Wildcats were a bit lacking at that last season, forcing just 19 turnovers.
– If the starting linebacking corps can stay in one piece, it’ll be a strong group. DaQuan Patton led the team with 70 tackles, but Elijah Sullivan only saw time in three games last season, and third-leading tackler Justin Hughes is out for the year with a torn ACL. There’s speed here, but not a lot of size and thump.
– The secondary will be a work in progress. After finishing fourth on the team in tackles, AJ Parker is set at one corner spot and Denzel Goolsby will be one of the starting safeties, but in what will normally be a 4-2-5 alignment, it’ll take all of fall camp to put the puzzle together. Walter Neil is a smallish nickel defender who might take that other corner gig on the other side of Parker, and there are plenty of other options to play around with, and …
– Now the pass rush has to help the cause after generating just 18 sacks and 50 tackles for loss. Overall, though, this is a good-looking line. Reggie Walker is a talent on one side, and sophomore Wyatt Hubert and Kyle Ball are veterans to rotate at the other spot. Trey Dishon isn’t exactly an anchor at tackle, but he’s sound in the interior for what should be a decent rotation.