SE: Wildcats Loaded at Linebacker

Linebacker Coach Mike Cox

Aug. 20, 2012

Editor’s Note: K-State Sports Extra continues its nine-part look at the 2012 Wildcats with each assistant coach taking an in-depth look at his respective position. Past articles include the quarterbacks, defensive ends, interior defensive line and offensive line. Today, we feature the linebackers.

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By Mark Janssen

The welcome mat has been rolled out for first-year Kansas State linebacker coach Mike Cox, and at the end of that purple carpet are young men by the name of Arthur Brown, Tre Walker, Justin Tuggle and Jarell Childs.

“It is an exciting group,” said Cox, who for the last three years has been at the University of Washington. “They are very talented and they have that thing you can’t teach, which is experience. But what I really like is the fact that all of them know they have a lot of work to do and they have a long way to go with their game.”

Starting in the middle will be Brown, a 6-foot-1, 228-pounder, who a year ago was honorable mention All-American, First Team All-Big 12 performer and the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

“He has good size and speed, and is very instinctive when the ball is snapped,” said Cox. “He just has that instinct that it takes to go make plays. But like the rest of them, Arthur is so humble and he knows there are areas where his game needs to grow.”

A product of Wichita East High School and transfer from the University of Miami, Brown had 101 tackles last year, which included 9.5 for negative yards, three pass deflections, plus a pivotal interception that sparked the Wildcats to a come-from-behind win over No. 15 Baylor.

Just a junior, Walker already has 26 games on his Wildcat resume. Last year, he posted 52 tackles with 3.5 for negative yards, three pass deflections and a forced fumble.

“Tre is very vocal for us and very knowledgeable about our defense,” said Cox. “Tre does a good job of getting lined up and getting other guys lined up.”

Walker is an Olathe North High School graduate where he was ranked the ninth-best player in Kansas in 2009.

Battling for the third starting spot are Tuggle and Childs.

Tuggle is flipping sides of the ball as he was a quarterback last year after transferring from Blinn College.

“Justin is very athletic, but raw,” said Cox. “He’s in the process of mastering his trade and just gradually getting better in everything that he does from rushing, to dropping, to reading keys. He’s just getting better every day.”

Cox added, “The biggest thing someone like Justin has to learn is playing with his pad level down. You have to learn that in a hurry, and he’s done that.”

To get more help with his switch from offense to defense, all Tuggle has to do is jump on the phone and call his dad, Jessie, who played 14 years as a linebacker in the National Football League, which included five Pro Bowl selections.

Tuggle (6-3, 233) played in four games last year on special teams during his junior season.

Childs, a 6-2, 230-pound senior, scored 53 tackles as a freshman in 2010 and added another 11 last year. That’s after opening his K-State career as a running back in 2009 when he played in 11 games and totaled 81 rushing yards.

“Jarell runs very well, is very athletic and knows all three linebacker positions,” said Cox. “If not starting, he’ll provide great competition at each of the positions.”

Other linebacker candidates include Blake Slaughter, a 5-10, 227-pound senior, and Jonathan Truman, a 5-11, 213-pound sophomore, who was in on 17 tackles in his freshman season last year. Also, Mike Moore, a 6-1, 213-pound freshman out of Dallas’ Skyline High School, is in his first season, while Nick Briney, a 6-2, 211-pound, is in his final year after transferring from Coffeyville Community College.

From top to bottom, Cox said, “The thing you like about all of them is that they are blue-collar, hard-working guys. They all have talent, but they’re humble enough to understand they have a lot of work to do.”

On his own duties as a first-year linebacker coach, Cox said, “The first thing I did was evaluate what they did last year, but then I gave them a clean slate and formed my own opinions about each one.”

• Brown played in 24 games while at Miami in 2008 and 2009, but notched just 17 tackles over the two-year period
• Brown was a Parade All-American in his senior season at Wichita East
• An honorable mention selection last year, Brown was the first K-State linebacker to be recognized with All-America honors since Josh Buhl in 2003
• Childs was tabbed as the 15th-best player in Missouri out of high school after rushing for 1,580 yards and 21 touchdowns
• Childs’ brother, Jaron Baston, played at Missouri
• Slaughter was tabbed the 22nd-best middle linebacker in the nation while at Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas
• A native of Alpharetta, Ga., Tuggle started his career at Boston College before transferring to Blinn

• A graduate from the University of Idaho where he played linebacker from 1983-86
• A native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
• Division I coaching stops at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville, Michigan State and Washington, plus he coached for the St. Louis Rams in 2007 and 2008
• A 25-year coaching veteran, Cox has coached in nine bowl games with four different schools
• Served as recruiting coordinator while with Michigan State in 2006

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