Position Preview: Defensive Line

31 Aug

“Oh, that’s never happened before!”

That was the reaction senior cornerbacks Tysyn Hartman and David Garrett had as they watched film of this year’s defense. What’s the difference that compelled them to comment as they did? Speed. Hartman said the defense as a whole is much faster, and defensive linemen in particular are pursuing the ball in a way their teammates down the field greatly appreciated.

“Our D-line is so much better than last year,” Garrett said. “They give a lot more effort [and are] bigger and stronger.”

When Kansas State’s defense takes the field on Saturday, many fans might recognize only one of the front four. 6’4″ and 305-pound senior Ray Kibble, who started nine games last season and played in all 13, will anchor the defense as the nose tackle. The other defensive tackle will be 6’2″ and 280-pound Vai Lutui, a transfer who amassed 63 tackles last season while helping his Mount San Antonio Community College team to a 13-0 record and national championship win.

“Both of them play hard,” Snyder said of the pair. “Ray has really come into his own, has been a more physical player, has been a tremendous effort player during the course of our preseason practices, which I appreciate a great deal. Vai has really done the same thing, practices hard, and I’m convinced will play hard as well.”

At defensive end, 6’3″ and 250-pound Jordan Voelker (son of Randall Voelker, a three-year offensive tackle for the Wildcats) has worked his way into the starting lineup after seeing time in five games last season. On the other end is 6’0″ and 254-pound Adam Davis, a prized recruit who had to redshirt last season because of an injury after playing at Hutchinson Community College in 2009.

“Adam is a very competitive young guy, has kind of an innate knack for the game, has a feel for it,” Snyder said. “He’s one of those guys that every snap is going to be pretty much the same for him. It’s going to be his best effort each and every time, succeed or fail. Voelker, I think, is as consistent a player as we have on our football team. You exactly what you’re going to get, and you get it every single snap exactly the same way. [He’s] very responsible-capable. Whatever his responsibilities are, you’re pretty certain that’s what you’re going to get.”

The members of this season’s defensive line have the tough task of shoring up a unit that last season allowed the most rushing yards per game in the Big 12 and nearly the most in the entire nation. While players said those numbers disappointed them, they use them for motivation without holding on to them.

“It’s already left in the past for me,” Garrett said. “When you dwell on the past, you never can move forward, so it’s just a new year, a new season, a new team.”

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