On defense, K-State coordinator Chris Cosh says, "We build around attitude and toughness. We want guys that work hard, have the commitment and that are good teammates. We have quite a few of those guys right now, which is good."
With this group, Cosh quips, "Don't we have to be?" when asked if this year's defense will be better than that of 2010.
But to the same question, head coach Bill Snyder says, "Is our defense any better? The answer is I don't know yet. I can't tell you that we've made a great deal of progress, but we've certainly made progress on that side of the ball."
For certain there is room for improvement as the Wildcats' "D" ranked No. 106 out of 120 Division I football teams last year allowing 445 yards per game. Against the run, K-State was listed No. 119 allowing 231 yards per game.
But to those numbers, Snyder said, "As bad as we were in some games, there were certain times when I had a great deal of pride at what our defensive actually did, which allows me to understand we weren't nearly as bad as the perception seemed to be."
But he also admits, "I don't think we are near as good as we need to be in any facet of the game. We do have a lot of improvement to make."
K-State has plenty of depth to go with Brown at linebacker with the return of senior Alex Hrebec (5-11, 240), sophomore Tre Walker (6-3, 213), plus Emmanuel Lamur (6-4, 219, Sr), who is moving up from his natural home at safety.
"He loves the position," Cosh said of Lamur. "He's like a young colt out there. He's a senior, but at that position he has so much still to learn. He has great emotion and spirit and those guys feed off of each other."
Of Brown (6-1, 223, Jr), Snyder said, "He's a team player who has worked hard at being a leader. That's not an easy thing for him because he's such a quiet individual, but he is trying to work at being a vocal leader in his own way." Cosh added of Brown, "He has great closing speed. He can go from 0 to 60 like a Ferrari. He just has cat-like quickness, plus he has a nose for the football."
Of the overall three ‘backer positions, Snyder said, "I think we are quicker and a bit more physical. We are rangier and we have better length than what we did. Tre and Emmanuel have started games, and Alex has been in our program for several years."
Hartman is a two-year starter, while Zimmerman earned Freshman All-America honors last year.
"It remains to be seen, but we do appear to have improved in a variety of ways," said Snyder. "Our second and third-level run support seems improved through the players we have, and their experience."
Snyder said if there is a questionable area on the defensive side of the ball it might be on the wings as the Wildcats will have a nearly entirely new cast at cornerback.
"At the corners we have newcomers which include some who were not with us in the spring. We do need depth at the corner positions and we anticipate the community college players to provide that," said Snyder, who added that he does like the competitiveness at the position. "Newness is always a concern, but the new players we have coming in at least are transfers who have played at the collegiate level."
K-State's opponents will be sure to test the corners as David Garrett (5-8, 175, Sr) is the only Wildcat with experience. He'll be joined on the two-deep chart by a trio of junior college transplants starting with Nigel Malone (5-10, 185), who was the only transfer secondary-type to take part in spring drills.
Other candidates will be Allen Chapman (5-11, 180, City College of San Francisco) and Kip Daily (6-0, 181, Blinn College). That leaves the defensive line where the Wildcats will likely line up on Saturday against Eastern Kentucky with three of four somewhat surprise starters over those who were penciled in at the beginning of fall drills.
In the middle of the D - at defensive tackle will be returning starter Ray Kibble (6-4, 305, Sr) along side Vai Lutui, a transfer from Mt. San Antonio Community College. Depth will be provided by John Sua (6-0, 290, Jr), Raphael Guidry (6-4, 290, Sr) and Javonta Boyd (6-2, 300, Jr).
At the ends are Adam Smith (6-0, 254, Jr) and Jordan Voelker (6-3, 250, Sr), who have played themselves ahead of Meshak Williams (6-3, 245, Jr) and Laton Dowling (6-2, 247, Fr). Of the overall defense, Voelker, who was a walk-on until a week ago, said, "We have more size and depth than last year. We may not clock faster, but our game speed with our pads on is faster. We are processing plays and reading the offense faster than last year."