SE: D-Line Delivering for K-State Defense

Charmeachealle Moore could only smile at the question and respond half seriously before giving his real answer. 

“Does the D-line set the tone for this defense?” Moore was asked. 

His response started, “Well, you know linebackers set the tone.”  After cracking a smile, Moore answered a bit more seriously. “They do. Without them, we couldn’t do our job,” he said. “I believe in our D-line, and we couldn’t do our job without the D-line. I guess you could say they do set the tone.”

Moore would know better than most. Twice this season he has recovered a fumble caused by a member of the defensive line, while he accounted for the Wildcats’ other forced fumble this season as well. 

Through two games, K-State’s defensive line has helped reverse a negative trend from a year ago. The Wildcats forced only 16 turnovers in 2015, including just one in the first two games. They have collected five in two games this year, including a pair of interceptions against Florida Atlantic. 

“The D-Line, they’re crazy good,” safety Kendall Adams said. “When (opponents) don’t have any time to pass the ball or they can’t run the ball, it makes our job way easier in the back.”

“They make it easy for the secondary because the ball is coming out fast,” sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed added. “They’re creating turnovers.” 

So far, K-State has flipped its five forced turnovers into 24 points. For perspective, the Wildcats scored 58 points off turnovers all of last season. 

“We take a lot of pride in it because the game’s not anything if you don’t have the football,” senior defensive end Jordan Willis said. “Going forward, we would like to be a team that’s going to continue to get the ball back to our offense.” 

Willis, a captain, and the rest of the defensive line have undoubtedly helped facilitate the shift in forcing turnovers. The group’s impact doesn’t stop there, however. 

Through three weeks of college football, K-State ranks in the top 25 nationally in total defense (fifth), passing defense (13th), rushing yards allowed (18th), scoring defense (23rd), third down defense (23rd) and sacks per game (25th). The Wildcats have also recorded multiple sacks in eight straight games, tied for the second longest streak in the nation.   

While all of those are a group effort, K-State’s defensive line has had a hand in each one. 

“We have some monsters on the D-line,” Moore said, as K-State closes its non-conference schedule against Missouri State on Saturday at 6:10 p.m., in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. “They’re ferocious.”

Ferocious is one way to put it. Another would be fearless, especially the Wildcats’ two redshirt freshmen — Reggie Walker and Trey Dishon — starting on the defensive line.  

“They’re not scared. They were ready,” Reed said. “They’re hungry, I can tell when I talk to them.” 

Walker, with two tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble this season, said nerves have never entered the picture for him. His biggest challenge, he said, has been focusing amongst the noise of a college crowd. 

Fortunately, he has been able to learn from Willis, a preseason All-Big 12 selection with a team-best two sacks this season to put him one shy of entering K-State’s career top-10 list. 

“He’s like my big brother. He took me under my wing when I first got here,” Walker said of Willis. “He told me, ‘You have the potential,’ and he showed me the ropes. He showed me the things to do and the things not to do. He was really a big influence when I first got here.” 

Tanner Wood, a junior sharing time with Walker at one of the end spots, has been a force on the defensive line as well. The junior from Conway Springs has recorded a team-best three tackles for loss that included a 12-yard sack against Florida Atlantic. 

“I think all of our defensive ends are playing well,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said. “All four of them are playing well, and I’m pleased about that because (defensive ends) coach (Blake) Seiler does a really nice job with them.” 

Each defensive end gets the job done a slightly different way, with playing strengths varying throughout the group. 

Willis wrecks offensive linemen with the complete package, highlighted by his experience, strength and mental devotion to studying opposing offensive lines. Walker brings a burst of speed and an overall high motor, while Wood offers the ability to do about anything he’s asked. 

Then there’s the inside attack of Will Geary and Trey Dishon, who Willis said can’t be ignored either. 

 “Those guys can pass rush too,” Willis said. “There’s a lot that we have to look forward to. It’s just a matter of all of us continuing to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Coach to Cure

In Saturday’s game between K-State and Missouri State, both coaching staffs will sport special arm patches in honor of the AFCA’s Coach to Cure MD program, which has raised more than $1.2 million over the last eight years. Last year, more than 10,000 coaches at 525 colleges at all levels participated. Fans interested in donating can do so by texting “CURE” to 90999 or visiting www.CoachtoCureMD.org