MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder has been disappointed by the play of Kansas State’s defensive line, and the position shuffle he used last week against Texas was a sign.
Prizell Brown moved from defensive tackle to end, knocking Brandon Harold out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. Raphael Guidry started in Brown's old position, and off the bench came Braden Wilson and Trevor Viers — two players who had spent all their time at fullback and on the offensive line.
"It was a big change in the depth chart," senior defensive end Antonio Felder said. "We went with it and it worked. So I like it."
Indeed, the new-look defensive front brought improved results to K-State's struggling pass rush. Brown picked up the Wildcats' first sack since cornerback David Garrett tackled Baylor's Robert Griffin in the backfield two games earlier. Even more encouraging was that the sack came from Brown. It was the first sack by a member of K-State's defensive line since September.
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The Wildcats rank 10th in the Big 12 with 13 sacks. Brown leads the team with four, Harold has two and the other seven have come from linebackers and defensive backs on blitzes.
By no means was last week's game against Texas impressive enough to be considered a breakout performance, but Snyder likes what he saw.
"We were fortunate to get five interceptions in the ballgame, and there is always a reason why certain things happen," Snyder said. "Even though we only had one sack in the game, our pass rush did have an impact on more than one of those interceptions. I find myself guilty of judging our pass rush on the number of sacks we get, but sometimes it is being in the right lane.”
K-State hopes to once again pressure the opposing quarterback today when it goes up against Missouri's Blaine Gabbert at Faurot Field.
Much like Texas, the Tigers use a spread offense and often line up without a running back. That means putting pressure on Gabbert will once again be key. Help from Wilson and Viers will be important.
But other reserves on the defensive line, such as Josh Berard, Payton Kirk and now Harold realize playing time is available if they deliver results. Snyder has no allegiances when it comes to his defensive line.
"Our philosophy is just relentless rush," Berard said. "We're trying. We want to get sacks just like the next guy. We do put a lot of emphasis on it. We haven't gotten there as much as we have wanted to, but I feel like we've made a vast improvement of getting the quarterback to throw the ball. We're getting in his face."