MANHATTAN (KSNT) – K-State defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman spoke with the media Thursday afternoon along with a number of defensive players.
The ‘Cats defense has high expectations for themselves.
“We want to be one of the best defenses in the Big 12, maybe in the nation. That’s what we pride ourselves on every day in practice, that’s what we work towards every day,” said defensive back TJ Smith.
The redshirt freshman started in each of the first four games in 2020 before a season-ending injury. Smith said he’s back to full strength and Klanderman said you wouldn’t even know he was ever injured.
The team is hopeful their defensive linemen will have a chance to introduce themselves to a number of Big 12 quarterbacks.
“Nate Matlack has been sensational in there. I think with him, Bronson Massie, Khalid Duke, Kirmari Gainous, the same usual suspects from a year ago, it’s going to be a pretty good rush,” Klanderman said.
Their ability to get into the backfield doesn’t stop with the edge rushers.
“Inside, I think, we’re going to be as salty as we’ve ever been here. You throw in the D Hentz (Robert Hentz II), Jaylen Pickle, Tim Horne, Eli Huggins. Those are four guys inside that can get after it pretty good,” Klanderman said.
The defense added a number of players via the transfer portal over the offseason but the new players don’t seem to be having any issues adjusting to Manhattan.
“Once you come in Manhattan, literally, you will feel the family atmosphere and see how tight-knit everyone is around here,” Timmy Horne said.
“My first impression of Kansas State is the family atmosphere. That was the biggest thing. Everybody’s so tight-knit,” said defensive back Reggie Stubblefield.
Stubblefield comes to K-State for his senior year after playing parts of five seasons at Prairie View A&M.
Horne is a transfer from UNC Charlotte and will also be a senior this fall. The fact that he’s new to K-State won’t stop the 6-foot-5, 320-pound defensive tackle from being a leader.
“The thing that Tim has been so great on is being a vocal leader. We don’t have a lot of vocal dudes here,” Klanderman said. “That’s why I’m pleased to see Deuce (Daniel) Green taking that role and Tim Horne taking that role even though Tim is a new guy.”
The defense’s biggest improvement from last season could be their addition of depth.
“We probably didn’t have as much depth as we have this year,” Smith said. “But I feel like once we rotate we won’t miss a beat no matter who’s on the field.”
They’re hopeful this depth will help fill the hole of Wyatt Hubert, who is now with the Cincinnati Bengals.