Just as Kansas State is a well-oiled conventional team on offense, the Wildcats’ defense is traditionally well-coached and hard to fool. While their rush defense has looked porous at times so far this season, it still ranks inside the top 50 in the country based on yards surrendered through the air.
Here are three players lining up opposite Will Grier and Co. that fans should watch for on Saturday.
1. Duke Shelley, CB – As has already been mentioned, the Wildcats have held up well on the back end so far, allowing only 189.3 yards and 1.7 TD’s per game. Leading the secondary in Manhattan is senior Duke Shelley. The five-foot-nine Georgia native currently leads Kansas State with 15 total tackles and six passes defended and is, at this point in the season, K-State’s likely MVP. It’s important to note, however, that in its first three games, Kansas State has yet to be truly challenged through the air. Saturday will pose a legitimate threat to a depleted Wildcats secondary as West Virginia’s arsenal returns to action. Shelley is a scrappy, sure tackler and will likely be shadowing either David Sills or Gary Jennings throughout the majority of the game. If K-State’s offense can’t maintain control of the clock, Shelley and his fellow defensive backs could find themselves on the wrong end of a footrace on Saturday.
2. Eli Walker, SS – No matter what conference you play in, losing a veteran in your secondary early in the season hurts. In the Big 12, it can be downright cataclysmic. Kansas State defensive back Denzel Goolsby, the injured veteran in question, is out for an undisclosed period of time. In relief, California native Eli Walker tallied five tackles, including one pretty impressive play in run support, and now figures to patrol the deep third against West Virginia’s pass-happy offense this Saturday. Walker, who arrived at Kansas via the JuCo route, was the nation’s top-rated safety coming out of Cerritos JC in 2017. While he doesn’t lack in obvious physical tools, Walker will need to have a strong showing right out of the gate for the Wildcats to hold Will Grier and his fleet of offensive weapons at bay. West Virginia’s bigger receivers battling a bigger safety like Walker could be a matchup to keep an eye on come Saturday.
3. Sam Sizelove, LB – Junior Elijah Sullivan is almost certainly the most talented linebacker on Kansas State’s roster. Unfortunately, injuries have hampered him to the point that he was a no-show for last week’s contest against the Roadrunners. Sizelove, a fellow junior and Texas native, has seen limited action in the last few seasons but now figures far more prominently in the Wildcats’ ‘bend, don’t break’ scheme. Through three games, Sizelove has already recorded 11 total tackles and will be leaned on heavily on Saturday. With West Virginia’s rushing attack looking both strong and varied, Kansas State will need all the run support it can get to keep Saturday’s game within reach.