While losing Meshak Williams, John Sua, Vai Lutui and Adam Davis is a concern across the front, and Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman on the back end, it's in the middle that is perhaps K-State's biggest concern.
Defensively, coach Bill Snyder said that five players were in the mix for the two middle line spots, while four were competition at the two end positions. At the back end the Wildcat coach said that six players have been in the mix.
"Our linebacker position is probably competitive with legitimately four guys right now," said Snyder of the day-to-day competition.
"When I say day-by-day, I mean one is little bit better than one on one day, and then the other might be better another day. That is what makes it competitive. I am talking about being legitimately competitive."
In the mix at linebacker is 2011 and 2012 starter Tre Walker, who missed the last four games of the 2012 season due to an injury; senior Blake Slaughter, who redshirted last year; Jonathan Truman, a junior-to-be, who saw spot duty last year; plus redshirt freshman Marquel Bryant and transfer Dakorey Johnson from Trinity Valley Community College.
Whoever is playing the three positions, Walker says, "We want to be back where we were before, Big 12 Champions, but it's definitely going to take a lot of work. I think if we get together and get back to the drawing board and not so much worry about where we were last year, but focus on what we want to become, I think we will be fine."
Walker, a product of Olathe North High School, hopes his health will be fine after an injury forced him to the bench two-thirds of the way through the season presenting him with the challenge of his playing career.
"My dad told me one time that sometimes the motivator needs to be motivated," said the K-State team leader. "Every day was an uphill battle; I talked to coach a lot, my teammates kept me up in my spirits, and right now I can honestly say I am ahead of schedule."
Walker scored 19 tackles in the eight games he played in last year, go to along with 52 stops in 2011 and 47 in 2010. The 6-3, 225-pounder has demonstrated big-play ability with eight stops for negative yards, four pass deflections, and interception and a forced fumble.
It was Slaughter's decision to redshirt in 2012 rather than play his senior year behind Arthur Brown.
The decision allowed him to gain even more experience on the field, and off the field complete a degree in business management to go along with one in mechanical engineering.
"What I took away from it and gained from it was just growing in knowledge of the game even more. Understanding concepts and schemes of what offenses can and will do in certain situations and just the thought process behind the scenes, what plays are we calling what works in certain situations," said Slaughter, a product of Missouri City, Texas.
"Athletically, I gained more flexibility being able to move better, and I feel my lateral movement has improved a lot." Slaughter laughed when quizzed about being the next Arthur Brown: "The best way to deal with it is to just to be who you are. I am not Arthur Brown. I have some strengths that he might not have, and he has some strengths obviously that I do not have. I can't live in a personal shadow and dwell on that too long."
Slaughter, who has 52 career tackles, which included 47 in his sophomore year, went on to say of his second senior season, "It is just a privilege, almost like a victory lap, and I am definitely excited to finish up that way. It's a joy to be around the team for one more year and to help the younger players."
While Slaughter's decision impressed his coaches, it also left an impression on teammates like Walker, who said, "I can't say enough about his character to sit out and be the vocal leader that he was and to not play. Blake has done a great job and he knows our defense inside and out. He will most likely be in the middle of the defense. He will be a great asset this year."
Truman, a 5-11, 214-pounder out of Wichita Kapaun High School will enter his junior season with a career total of 40 tackles in 25 games played.