Kansas State’s two top tacklers last season were linebackers Blake Slaughter and Jonathan Truman.
Slaughter is now gone, along with part-time starter Tre Walker, creating holes up the middle the Wildcats were looking to fill this spring.
Truman, the Wildcats’ second-leading returning tackler with 89 stops a year ago, is likely to move to the middle now, with guys filling in around him on the outside. When the Wildcats take the field on Saturday for the spring game — beginning at 1:10 p.m. — the guys on the outside will be Charmeachealle Moore and Will Davis.
Moore, a 6-foot, 217-pound junior will move from his spot as a third-down pass rusher to an every-down linebacker.
Davis, a 6-0, 233-pound sophomore will make debut with the top unit, after making 16 tackles in a reserve role last season.
Moore said the linebackers have made steady improvements throughout the spring.
“We’re always running for the ball, we’re high-octane, high-energy,” he said. “I think we’re doing a good job covering the pass, stopping the run, stopping the draws — we’re doing good.”
The Wildcats will have options around those guys too, including senior and former junior college transfer Dakorey Johnson and redshirt-freshman Isaiah Williams.
K-State will have even more reinforcements once fall camp gets started as well — highlighted by one of the nation’s top JUCO linebackers in Garden City’s D’vonte Derricott.
With the most experience of any in the group, K-State coach Bill Snyder said Truman has the potential to be a strong leader.
“Jon has a great deal of experience and understanding of what our defense is about,” he said. “He does a nice job, not just tying the second-level guys with the front four but tying the entire defense together and tying the secondary into it as well. He provides good leadership, which is growing. He has become a more vocal, more demanding leader because he recognizes the need for that.
“He is a bright young guy who seldom makes a mistake. He is, by and large, where you want him to be when you want him to be there.”
His fellow linebackers have taken notice too.
“He’s a great leader,” Moore said. “We can joke around in the locker room, but when we’re on the field, it’s all business, we get it done.”
Moore made a name for himself last season in the Wildcats’ jet package, a group of players who thrived on rushing the quarterback and stopping the pass. The junior said even though he’s moved to linebacker full-time, he still thinks he’ll be putting his hand on the ground on third-down pass situations.
“I can’t get away from that — I love rushing the passer,” Moore said. “I played D-end in high school, so I like both of them. I like linebacker because I can see a lot more, so I guess you could say I like it better.
“The biggest thing is making sure my alignment is right and getting my drops right when I look around my area to see who is around me.”
Snyder said there has been improvement from Moore during the spring, but he still has a ways to go.
“He has progressed,” Snyder said. “He still has an awful lot of improvement to make, but he has been reasonably consistent in the improvement that he has made — the knowledge he has of our defense and being able to react to things in a reasonable fashion.”
Moore said he’s willing to play wherever the coaches ask him, even if it was competing with BJ Finney at center. He’s committed himself to playing with more energy at all times, no matter where he’s assigned.
One thing is certain. Moore understands the rich tradition K-State has at the linebacker position. It’s something he said he works to live up to.
“Our linebacker group, we love each other,” he said. “We always try to uphold the legacy of having great linebackers. We’re trying to keep the legacy going.”