No one wanted to believe it.
K-State fans thought the tackling had improved. They thought the defensive line would quit getting pushed around.
They thought opposing quarterbacks would no longer be able to carve up the Wildcat secondary.
But then Louisville dominated K-State a week ago, 38-29.
Somewhere between surrendering a 29-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 56-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, an unsettling thought probably crept into the minds of Wildcat fans: the 2008 defense is no better than the 2007 defense — the same unit that gave up 198 points in the last four games of last season.
At Monday’s press conference, players and coach Ron Prince were in agreement — this year’s defense is different.
“How is it different?” Prince said. “I think it’s considerably different. I see it every day. I don’t see it the same way that you see it.”
A lot of players said the leadership is stronger this year. They believe this year’s seniors won’t let the defensive unit quit.
They’re right. At least about this year’s defense using different players.
Most of the defensive players who’ve had significant playing time this year were not part of the defensive collapse of 2007. K-State is playing a lot of transfer players and a few who did not play last season.
So what happened against Louisville? Why did K-State give up more than 500 yards of total offense? Why did the Cardinal offense have no trouble running or passing the football? Why did it look so similar to that pathetic 2007 unit?
While there might be a lot of new defensive players, the coaches and the scheme they run is still the same.
When Prince hired Tim Tibesar as defensive coordinator in 2007, he hired his 3-4 defense along with it. The 3-4, while not rocket science, is different from the norm.
It requires different personnel than the 4-3. There is extra pressure on the defensive linemen. There is more pressure on linebackers to tackle in space. The blitzing packages are typically more complicated.
There’s no doubt that transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 will come with growing pains. It will take time to find the right players, especially at the linebacker and defensive line positions.
However, a lot of the players playing this season were recruited for the 3-4.
The other players have had a year to learn the new system. Therefore there should be progress, right?
While stronger leadership only can be a positive for the Wildcats, it won’t matter if they have the wrong players running the wrong scheme.
Jon Garten is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to email@example.com.