In a game that even Coach Bill Snyder was boring, a defense facing many questions coming off of a disappointing 4-7 record last season came up with a few answers. Snyder said that he liked some of the things he saw out on the field. "I though that we played well defensively today," Snyder said. While the spring practices had seen the defense encounters both highs and lows, Snyder said the team stepped up in the spring scrimmage.
"Collectively, that's probably as well as we have played." Specifically, Snyder cited the pass rushing and coverage as areas where improvement was notable. "I thought we covered better, because there was a lot of scrambling by quarterbacks," Snyder said. "I thought our four-man pass rush improved today."
With the different units of the defense facing different questions, a unit-by-unit look is needed to examine the standouts.
The standout on the defensive line was not one that many would have expected, or necessarily that many of the10,000-plus in attendance had heard of. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jordan Bedore did the things that linemen do to impact games, including accumulating six total tackles, and being credited with 1.5 sacks. Along with that, Bedore did something that defensive linemen rarely do - namely intercepting a pass. Bedore stepped in front of an attempted pass by quarterback Allen Evridge, and returned it 29 yards, setting up a field goal for the White squad.
"I liked the big play that Bedore had," Snyder said, regarding the interception. "He probably hasn't touched the football in the 15 practices other than the interception."
The first unit starters included senior Tearrius George and junior Blake Seiler at defensive end, and junior Quentin Echols and senior Derek Marso at defensive tackle. Marso tallied nine total tackles and a sack, while Echols had six tackles and one sack. Senior Scott Edmonds did not participate due to injury, but is expected to be a starter at defensive end.
This, again, was a unit with an unexpected standout. Not so much because fans might not know his name, but more because many fans probably were looking for Maurice Mack in the secondary. Mack, who had been a safety until last week, and hadn't played linebacker since his sophomore year of high school, impressed Snyder with his play. "I really like the way Maurice has been playing – he's picked things up quite well," Snyder said. "His speed adds something to the position." Snyder said that's there's a very good chance that Mack may have found a new home at linebacker.
Meanwhile, Mack said that adjusting to that home is still a work in progress. "It was a little difficult at first. I moved over Monday, and I basically had a week," Mack said. "The hardest part is reading the keys. That was a booger for me. Instead of reading one person like the wide receiver, linebackers have to read three people." Mack totaled six tackles in his linebacker debut.
Along with Mack, another Wildcat who had never before stepped in at linebacker manned that spot in the Spring Game. Sophomore Greg Gaskins made the switch from safety and recorded eight tackles, working with the second team. The first unit starters included senior Ted Sims and juniors Brandon Archer and Mack. Archer said he has high hopes for the defensive unit. "I think we're a better defense right now than we were last year at this point," Archer said. "We're not where we want to be, but I think we are on the up."
Fellow linebacker Sims expressed the same opinion. "I think we're coming together as a team and we work hard together," Sims said. "If we are together, we can make it happen, and we're an A-plus team after that.
When the subject of the defense came up, the first name that Snyder mentioned was Kyle Williams. "I was really impressed with the effort and play of Kyle Williams," Snyder said. "We moved him inside and he made those two great plays. He forced a fumble off Thomas (Clayton) on an extended run and came right back the next series and broke up a pass in the endzone. I thought he played well all day." To go along with the big plays Snyder mentioned, Williams totaled seven tackles, including one for loss.
The Purple team starters included senior Maurice Porter and sophomore Bryan Baldwin at cornerback and senior Jesse Tetuan and junior Williams at safety. Sophomore Byron Garvin also saw significant time with the first unit at corner.
Sophomore Marcus Watts, who also saw snaps at wide receiver and participated on every special teams unit, spent significant time at the position he was originally recruited to play, free safety. Watts said he is going to do all he can to earn playing time on the defensive side of the ball. "I'm going to push Jesse (Tetuan), and Jesse is going to push me," Watts said. "We're both good safeties." Watts totaled four tackles.
Redshirt freshman John McCardle made an impact in the fourth quarter, picking off an Allen Evridge pass after a deflection and returning it 44 yards.
While the Spring Game offered a very vanilla flavor of football, it did provide some fine insight to the defensive squad that will try to reacquire the "Lynch Mob" title this fall.
Snyder said that incoming freshmen would be given their opportunities to earn spots with the defensive unit, but also said he couldn't think of any that they were necessarily depending on. It seems that with Mack at linebacker and Watts playing some at safety, the defense will feature a little more speed – something it severely lacked last season.
Although Saturday's game may have been a bore, an improved defense could definitely keep K-State fans on their feet this fall. Never tipping his hand, Coach Snyder has tinkered with some new lineups and moved some peices around this year and the impetus seems to be on improving and finding players at certain positions....stay tuned.
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