Kansas State University

K-State loses top defensive back AJ Parker to injury ahead of Texas game

The Kansas State Wildcats will have to try and slow down one of the nation’s most prolific passing teams without their best cornerback when they face Texas on Saturday.

AJ Parker, a junior defensive back with 27 tackles and three interceptions this season, is out indefinitely because of a fractured right ankle, K-State football coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Parker was injured during K-State’s last game against Kansas and walked out of the visiting locker room with a medical boot wrapped around his right foot and crutches under both arms. Klieman initially hoped Parker’s injury was only a sprain, but a MRI revealed a fracture.

“He is going to be out for the foreseeable future,” Klieman said. “I can’t tell you how long. We are still trying to evaluate whether there is surgery or not. I see him out for a significant amount of time.”

It will be a challenge for K-State to replace Parker in the secondary. He has started 20 straight games for the Wildcats and has been their best cover corner this season.

Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton has routinely asked Parker to defend the best receiver on the opposing team. For now, it remains unclear who will step up and cover Texas receiver Devin Duvernay, who has caught 69 passes for 800 yards and seven touchdowns this year.

The Longhorns have more than one weapon in their passing game. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger is averaging 297.2 passing yards per game while receivers Brennan Eagles, Collin Johnson and Jake Smith have each eclipsed 200 yards this year.

Texas ranks third in the Big 12 and 14th in the nation in passing yards

Klieman said the Wildcats will lean on Walter Neil, Kevion McGee, Darreyl Patterson and Lance Robinson for as long as Parker remains sidelined.

“Kevion has played a lot for us,” Klieman said. “We have been in a three-man rotation there quite a bit. Darreyl Patterson has been the fourth, so he will move up to the third spot at corner. Between Kevion, Walter and those guys they will get more reps. Lance Robinson moves up a spot, too.”

McGee will likely start in place of Parker on Saturday. A senior defensive back, he has made nine tackles and two pass breakups this season.

“AJ is a great player for us. I’m sad that he’s down right now,” K-State defensive tackle Trey Dishon said. “But we have some great players like Kevion McGee who can play, guys who can step in and make plays. I’m not too worried about who can step in and fill that role. We have got some defensive backs who can play.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.