To say Trent Tanking lacked linebacker experience when he took the field in Kansas State’s last game against TCU would be putting it politely.
Tanking, a 6-foot-2 junior from Holton, hadn’t lined up on defense in four years. His last tackle as a linebacker, before Saturday, came in high school.
When senior starter Charmeachealle Moore went down with an injury near the end of the first half and K-State replaced him with Tanking, an unheralded special teams contributor, many wondered if he could handle the opportunity, including Tanking.
“Those were my first in-game plays at linebacker,” he admitted later.
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Turns out there was no cause for concern. The way Tanking played, you would have thought he was a seasoned defender.
“Trent played lights out,” K-State football coach Bill Snyder said. “He was excellent. Once again, it wasn’t anything that surprised anybody, because that is what he does day in and day out. He is a great teammate. He will do anything he can to help his team and this is exactly what he did.”
Tanking made five tackles on top of an interception in his linebacker debut.
K-State led 10-6 at halftime and did nothing but add to that lead with Tanking in the game. The Wildcats pulled away for a 30-6 victory, with Tanking picking off TCU quarterback Foster Sawyer on the game’s final play. A complete pass would have resulted in a touchdown.
“I was just trying to read his eyes,” Tanking said. “I knew that was going to be their last play and they were going to take a shot at the end zone. I tried to get in the throwing lane and got in front of the pass. I was glad I caught it. It was a great feeling.”
It was obvious early in the second half Tanking was headed to a strong game. He played fundamentally sound defense on his first few plays and made solid tackles the same we he has for two seasons on punt and kickoff coverage.
His confidence began to build when his teammates showed trust in him.
“I was not too worked up out there,” Tanking said. “I rely on my linebacker coach and the older guys who are in there at linebacker, and they all came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you got this, just go do your thing.’ Elijah (Lee) helped me out with pace of play. Once I got settled in I was just out there playing football.”
Tanking will likely go back to special teams full time in K-State’s next game against Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. But his play at TCU is an encouraging sign for the future. The next time he lines up at linebacker, he will have a positive experience to build on.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett