Just days before Kansas State’s road opener, the status of two of its most important players on defense remains unclear.
Defensive end Wyatt Hubert and defensive back Walter Neil Jr. — both starters at their respective positions — left last week’s game against Bowling Green with undisclosed injuries. Neither reentered the contest, which K-State won going away in a 52-0 rout.
Afterward, Wildcats head coach Chris Klieman said Neil’s injury wasn’t serious. If the situation had called for it, Klieman said, Neil would have returned.
Safeties coach Joe Klanderman, who met with reporters Wednesday, didn’t sound as confident about Neil’s availability for Saturday’s game at Mississippi State.
“Don’t know yet. We’ll find out,” Klanderman said. “I wish I could help you. I don’t know, I really don’t.”
Klanderman said the team would learn more about Neil’s health Wednesday afternoon.
“I think he’s down there right now, as a matter of fact,” said Klanderman, alluding to the training room where players receive treatment prior to practice.
Neil, a fourth-year junior from Lawton, Oklahoma, is considered one of the leaders in the secondary along with senior safety (and team captain) Denzel Goolsby.
Neil has started both games at cornerback this season, recording two tackles and a pass breakup.
Buddy Wyatt, Hubert’s position coach, said he didn’t have an update on the Topeka native’s status Wednesday.
“Obviously, we hope to have Wyatt,” Wyatt said. “But if we don’t, other guys are preparing to take his place.”
Hubert earned a place on USA Today’s freshman All-American team last season after playing in all 12 games with seven starts.
He had two tackles (one for loss) before leaving the field Saturday. Hubert has four tackles overall, tops among K-State defensive lineman. His two tackles for loss are a team high.
But if he can’t play against the Bulldogs, or if he’s limited, Wyatt said other players must fill the void.
“That’s kind of the approach we’ve taken if somebody can’t play: It’s the next guy up, so you have to be ready,” Wyatt said. “You never know when your opportunity is going to present itself. I think any of the guys who play will have prepared well and they’ll be ready to go.”