This week and next, we’re examining the strongest and weakest positions on each Big 12 roster as teams enter summer workouts.
The series continues with the Kansas State Wildcats.
Strongest position: Defensive backs
The Big 12’s best secondary features D.J. Reed, the defensive newcomer of the year in the conference and a first-team all-league pick as a sophomore in 2016, and Duke Shelley at cornerback. They intercepted three passes apiece last year and broke up another 20, helping K-State hold opponents to the second-lowest QBR figure in the Big 12 and a league-best 387.7 yards per game.
Reed and Shelley form the backbone of a defensive backfield that includes Kendall Adams, a two-year starter at safety who collected 62 tackles last season.
Elijah Walker, though, might alter those plans. Walker arrives this summer out of California as the No. 3-rated juco safety in the Class of 2017. If he shows the skills right away that made him a coveted prospect for several of the Wildcats’ league rivals, K-State might boast of the best secondaries nationally in 2017.
Weakest position: Linebacker
More of a giant question mark that a weakness for the Wildcats, the linebacker positions will look entirely new this year. K-State sent Elijah Lee, first-team All-Big 12 as a junior, to the NFL, and Charmeachealle Moore went with him.
Lee and Moore handled nearly all the work last year in the middle of the K-State defense. Trent Tanking, Sam Sizelove and Jayd Kirby stepped into top positions in the spring. A former walk-on and star on special teams, Tanking likely holds the key to success as Lee’s replacement.
Juco transfer Da’Quan Patton, who joined the Wildcats for spring practice, showed signs of emerging as a playmaker.
Regardless, a lack of game experience warrants concern here as the the Wildcats are shifting assistant coach Blake Seiler from defensive ends to linebackers.