Kansas State’s top three linebackers are itching to see how many tackles they can make next season.
Elijah Lee, Will Davis and Charmeachealle Moore combined for 189 stops last year, making them the most productive unit on K-State’s defense. Lee led the team with 80 tackles, Moore came on strong late to finish with 55 and Davis had 54. Topping those numbers may be difficult this season, given that coach Bill Snyder prefers to use two linebackers in most defensive formations, but the tackling trio is up for the challenge.
They view the upcoming season like a video game. Together, they can’t wait to see if they can beat their previous high score, and by how much.
“We didn’t lose a linebacker this year,” Davis, a senior, said. “We have a lot of guys who have talent all across the board.”
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That has led to some cutthroat practices this spring.
No position on K-State’s roster has a higher ceiling than linebacker, and the Wildcats’ top tacklers are already showing their skills.
Lee, a rising junior playmaker, seems to have the fast track for a starting spot, and Moore passed Davis on the depth chart near the end of 2015, but nothing is guaranteed. All three veteran linebackers are pushing each other for playing time.
“It is extremely competitive,” Davis said. “We compete day in, day out, but it makes us better. We don’t care. We are trying to get better everyday as players and as a team. If the one is doing good and the two is right there on him that makes the one that much better. If the three is pushing the two, it makes the two that much better. It is just a chain reaction. We embrace the competition at linebacker. That is what we thrive on. We pride ourselves on being the hardest working group on the team. So, any time we can get competition, we are going to take it.”
Snyder enjoys watching K-State’s entire linebackers corps practice.
He thinks Sam Sizelove and Trent Tanking are both ready to contribute, and will add depth at the least.
“We probably have five or six guys in the linebacker group right now that fit in quite well,” Snyder said. “They are very competitive with each other.”
Davis and Lee have emerged from the pack as leaders, but Moore may be the most intriguing player of the bunch.
He missed most of 2014 with a medical redshirt and played sparingly for much of 2015 while he dealt with the death of his father. But he became a tackling machine late in the year, piling up 43 tackles in his final four games, including a whopping 17 against West Virginia. No K-State player has recorded more solo tackles (16) in a game under Snyder.
He is hoping for more this fall, just like all of K-State’s linebackers.
“I tried to get better than where I finished,” Moore said. “I am just trying to get better every day. We all are. If we stay in the same boat, that’s not going to do us no good.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett