The numbers are 4-2-5.
That’s four down-linemen – a pair of ends and a tackle duo – plus two linebackers, backed by an umbrella of five defensive backs.
Saturday, that Kansas State defensive scheme by the Purples limited the White unit to 123 total yards, plus, kept the second- and third-teamers out of the end zone during the playing of the annual spring game.
Coach Bill Snyder was pleased, but also realistic.
“That probably says we played relatively well, but you have to balance that out,” said the K-State coach. “We did play relatively well, but our White offense didn’t play with much consistency.”
The Purples allowed the Whites to gain just 61 rushing yards, plus another 62 through the air.
That’s 25 first-quarter yards, 74 in the second, 20 in the third stanza, and just 4 in the fourth quarter.
“We’re getting better,” said linebacker Alex Hrebec.
But as Garden City Community College transfer Kadero Terrell added, “We have a long way to go.”
Certainly a long way to go from a year ago when the Wildcats were No. 117 in total defense. A defense that allowed teams to run, and to pass, and to score, at will – 35.8 points per game, 479 total yards per game (218 rushing, 261 passing).
Hrebec registered 19 tackles Saturday, while end Brandon Harold, d-back Tysyn Hartman, and linebacker John Houlik each had nine tackles.
A walk-on who earned a scholarship, Snyder said of Hrebec, “He’s an effort guy. He pays attention and works hard to try to improve his performance level. He’s a young guy who makes the effort to learn from mistakes.”
Saying that Hrebec is normally in the “right place at the right time,” Snyder added that he hopes his linebacker will learn “… to pull the trigger faster and more aggressively.”
But of 19 tackles, Snyder said, “That says he’s around the football.”
Harold had four arrests for negative yards, which included three sacks, plus a forced fumble; Hartman and tackle Daniel Calvin had two stops for minus-yards; d-back Josh Moore and Houlik each had two passes broken up; Eric
Childs had a fumble recovery; and, interceptions were scored by Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Courtney Herndon.
As a freshman, Harold played inside at times in 2008, but now is back home on the perimeter as an end.
Playing at times last year at 250 pounds, the 6-foot-6 Harold is now in the 265 range, and growing.
“He’s just about ready to turn the corner in the weight room. He’s starting to put on some girth,” Snyder said. “With normal progression, he should be an improved player year in and year out. He wants to be a good player.”
A year ago, Harold led all freshmen around the country with his 10.5 tackles for negative yards while going head-to-head with massive offensive linemen.
"It was another experience, like gaining knowledge of playing against guys who are more aggressive," said Harold. "It was better for me experience-wise to learn how to take on double teams and things like that."
Another to go through a position shift is Terrell, a 6-2, 235-pound native from Eustis, Fla., and linebacker from Garden City Community College, who is now playing defensive end for the Wildcats.
“They want me as a pass rusher,” said Terrell, who made the switch only two weeks ago. “I’m learning a lot of Joe Bob (coach Clements) on how to use my feet and my speed, and how to get leverage with my arms. It’s just a beginning process of learning all the moves.”
If there’s a defensive question mark, it’s can the Wildcats exist in the Big 12 Conference with Houlik as a 5-11, 219-pounder, and Hrebec as a 6-1, 235-pounder?
With consistency, the Wildcats say, “Yes.”
Right now, Houlik said, “We’re up and down. Up one day, and then slide off the next. We need to continue to focus on the fundamentals of tackling and pursuing the ball. We need to spend the summer working our butts off.”
“We’re nowhere near satisfied,” said Hrebec. “We need to learn how to player harder and better.”
If there was a surprise starter Saturday, that would be Onaga (Kan.) High School and Hutchinson Community College product.
The 6-1, 186-pounder has only a single line on the Wildcat roster. No bio, no anything else.
But Saturday, he started in an injury depleted secondary and scored three tackles from his safety position.
“Sometimes attrition gets you up the ladder. That’s part of it, and part of it is a young man making an effort to do some positive things in practice,” Snyder said. “It’s a little bit of both.”
Not playing due to injury Saturday were d-backs Chris Carney, Otis Johnson and Adrian Stryker.