Leave it to a quarterback and running back to help solidify the Kansas State defense this season.
That’s the case for Justin Tuggle and Jarrell Childs, who made their respective moves from the offense to the defense for more playing time. Now, they’re both reaping the rewards.
Childs made the move from running back to linebacker more than three years ago, while Tuggle has just played just four games at his new linebacker spot after serving as a backup quarterback last year.
Much of the seventh-ranked Wildcats’ early success this season has been because of what Tuggle and Childs have done for a K-State defense that ranks fifth in the Big 12 and is preparing for Kansas this Saturday.
Tuggle and Childs have combined for 25 tackles this season, while Tuggle has 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. In fact, the two worked together 10 days ago to provide K-State with one of its biggest plays of the season when Tuggle sacked and stripped Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones at the Sooners’ 2-yard line and Childs scooped up the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
“I played on offense for two years and never got into the end zone,” Childs said of his first-career touchdown in the Wildcats’ 24-19 victory in Norman, Okla.
K-State coach Bill Snyder said he appreciates Tuggle’s effort at linebacker, which allowed him to make the big play at Oklahoma.
“He made the game-changer play in the ballgame and that was because of a variety of different things,” Snyder said, “but on his part, it was because of the continued effort — he didn’t stop competing — even though he had gotten blocked. The quarterback came underneath him, scrambled out and he continued to battle and got himself in position to make the tackle and force the fumble.”
Snyder noted what’s allowed both Tuggle and Childs to make their transitions from offense to defense is their athleticism.
“They have some instinct for the game itself, regardless of which side of the ball they happen to play on,” he said Tuesday. “And I think both run well and change directions well.
“They’re intelligent young guys and they pick up the system rather quickly. I don’t think for somebody who has those characteristics that it’s a dramatic change — it might seem like it going from quarterback or running back to linebacker — but still, if you have football smarts, you understand both sides of the ball.”
Childs made the move to linebacker after playing running back his first two years at K-State — redshirting in 2008 and rushing for 81 yards in a backup role in 2009 behind Daniel Thomas, who was one of the main reasons Childs opted to switch.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder from Kansas City, Mo., totaled 53 tackles during his first season on defense, but suffered a setback that spring when tore his ACL. He spent much of last season trying to get back on the field, recording only 11 stops as a reserve and on special teams.
“I was down last year, and I knew I wasn’t going to play much,” said Childs, who has 17 tackles this year, playing mainly in the nickel package. “I had a lot of teammates help me push through it and help me get back on the field.”
Childs’ unique experience playing on both sides of the ball has proven beneficial to Tuggle, whose father Jesse played 14 years at linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons.
“When I switched, I had people helping me — like Alex Hrebec,” Childs said. “I’ve helped (Tuggle) and tried to show him some techniques I’ve learned from older people who taught me when I moved.”
But Tuggle, who transferred to K-State from Blinn Community College, has looked like a natural linebacker at times too. That’s despite his first love being quarterback, a position he played at Boston College and then at Blinn when he took over the starting duties from Cam Newton who transferred to Auburn and later won the Heisman Trophy.
A year ago, Tuggle sat behind Collin Klein, but remained eager to get on the field and help his new team.
“I just wanted to get on the field,” Tuggle said this summer. “I know Collin had a good season last year, so I didn’t really want to be the guy to back him up the whole year this year. I wanted to do something, so I made the switch.”
It’s a move Childs said has been seamless.
“He’s one of the best athletes we have on the team,” he said. “He can play linebacker, could go on the D-line and obviously, if we needed him at quarterback, I think he could do that too. He’s a great player, all around. Its in his blood.”