Defensive tackle Jaylen Pickle makes immediate impact on Wildcats’ defense

Sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Pickle eyes down Oklahoma running back Seth McGowan in the Wildcats 38-35 upset victory over the Sooners last Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Ty Russell | Oklahoma Athletics)

There are plenty of well-known members on the football team, but there are also members who are finding the spotlight and getting the chance to contribute.

Sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Pickle is one of those players. Pickle got his first start against Oklahoma last week and immediately made an impact.

Pickle redshirted in 2018 and only saw playing time against Bowling Green in 2019. He was injured in the Wildcats’ season opener against Arkansas State, and got to show his skills for the first time against Oklahoma.

While others might have struggled with nerves after realizing their first career start would take place in one of the most hostile environments in college football, Pickle said he was prepared for his first glimpse of Big 12 Conference action.

“I don’t think I really felt nervous; I felt I was prepared for that,” Pickle said. “You know how like sometimes you get butterflies in your stomach? I never really felt like I got those. Maybe it was just because I thought I prepared well.”

His performance backs that up. On the Sooners’ first drive of the game, Pickle tipped freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler’s pass at the line of scrimmage — and the ball landed in senior linebacker Elijah Sullivan’s hands for an interception.

“I thought [Jaylen] did some really good things against Oklahoma,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “He has great length. He was able to deflect the pass early in the game when Elijah had the interception. He [also] did some really good things in the run game”

The 6-foot-4-inch, 313-pound defensive back said there were a lot of emotions going on.

“It felt good. It felt amazing actually to be out there with all my brothers, especially coming away with a win, and especially against a top-tier team like we played,” Pickle said.

Pickle said he thinks the Wildcat defense is improving, and said they prepared better for Oklahoma than for Arkansas State.

“I feel like we attacked better when we were preparing for Oklahoma,” Pickle said. “I feel like everybody’s mindset was completely different. I feel like we just attacked everything that was thrown at us the whole week. Obviously, we had a lot of adversity with people being out and everything, and I feel like we attacked that very well and our mindsets were just different.”

Creating turnovers was critical for K-State’s defense against the Sooners

“Turnovers going into every game is big for the defense,” Pickle said. “We obviously don’t score, so we wanted to give the ball back to the offense and get off the field.”

Klieman said he’s excited about Pickle and expects to see big things from him in the future.

“[Pickle] needs to continue to work on his game, but I see great improvement from him,” Klieman said.

Pickle’s next chance to shine is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Texas Tech at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.