|Defensive end Ryan Mueller had 18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks during the regular season.|
Starters: Junior weakside end Frank Clark (6'2", 273 lbs.) is the headliner of the group. As a Second Team all-conference selection, he started the season a little slowly but ended with 12 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The other defensive end will likely be junior Brennen Beyer (6'3", 250 lbs.), who has bounced from SAM linebacker to weakside end to SAM linebacker and now to strongside end. Despite starting every game this season, he has just 25 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks, so his playmaking skills are somewhat lacking. Fifth year senior Quinton Washington (6'4", 301 lbs.) is the nose tackle, and he holds the point of attack fairly well but has made just 19 tackles while being hampered by a nagging back injury. Senior Jibreel Black (6'2", 278 lbs.) is the 3-tech tackle and can give interior linemen trouble with his quickness, but generally, he lacks the bulk to hold up in the power run game, which could very well be an issue against Kansas State.
Backups: Redshirt sophomore Keith Heitzman (6'3", 280 lbs.) began the season as the strongside end but is more of a stopgap player with 8 tackles and .5 tackles for loss. Redshirt freshman Chris Wormley (6'4", 289 lbs.) has played end and 3-tech tackle, and while not a dominant player, he has flashed potential with 17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Redshirt freshman Ryan Glasgow (6'4", 300 lbs.) has played a fair amount at defensive tackle but has just 2 total tackles to show for it, and redshirt junior Richard Ash (6'3", 314 lbs.) has 3 tackles on the season. The backup weakside ends are sophomore Mario Ojemudia (6'3", 250 lbs.) with 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks and freshman Taco Charlton (6'6", 270 lbs.) with 2 tackles and .5 tackles for loss.
Starters: Redshirt junior left end Ryan Mueller (6'2", 245 lbs.) is the star of KSU's defensive front, racking up 61 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, and 4 forced fumbles this year. That performance earned him first team all-conference honors and mention on some All-America teams. On the other end is senior Alauna Finau (6'1", 258 lbs.), who has 20 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks on the year. Sophomore left defensive tackle Travis Britz (6'4", 293 lbs.) has 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. Senior right defensive tackle Chaquil Reed (6'3", 309 lbs.) has 33 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks, and he runs pretty well for a big guy.
Key backups: Redshirt sophomore defensive end Marquel Bryant (6'3", 241 lbs.) has 13 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks, and junior defensive tackle Valentino Coleman (6'3", 285 lbs.) has 4 tackles as Britz's backup. The only other defensive lineman to play in even half of the Wildcats' games is redshirt junior defensive end Laton Dowling (6'3", 254 lbs.), who has just 3 tackles on the year, but that includes 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Michigan is #27 in the country in rush defense with 139 yards allowed/game, and Kansas State is #40 giving up 145 yards/game. Against the pass, Michigan is #68 with 23 sacks, and Kansas State is #48 with 27 quarterback takedowns. Statistically, there's not a ton that separates these two teams. In watching Oklahoma's 41-31 win over the Wildcats in game 11, I was not impressed with the defensive line. Granted, Oklahoma was the #11 team in the country, but Finau and Coleman looked particularly vulnerable in the running game. They don't flip their defensive line much, so Mueller has been able to rack up a lot of his numbers against teams' right tackles, who are generally inferior to the left tackles. Against Michigan, Mueller will face likely one of his best opponents this year in Michael Schofield. Britz and Reed might be able to get a little bit of penetration, but Michigan's improved offensive line play in the last couple weeks of the season should be sufficient to have a decent day. The Wildcats have the better individual statistics and perhaps the best overall player in Mueller, but with the way Clark, Ojemudia, Beyer, Wormley, Henry, Washington, and Black work together to funnel things to the inside linebackers, I think the advantage right here goes to . . .