Kansas State By Position: Defensive Line

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats boast one of the best pass rushers in the country, but what else?

Defensive End

Starters: Ryan Mueller (6'2 Jr.), Marquel Bryant (6'3 So.)

Backups: Laton Dowling (6'3 Jr.), Alauna Finau (6'1 Sr.)

The big name to know on the Kansas State defense — that isn't all conference safety Ty Zimmerman — is Ryan Mueller, one of the most productive defensive players in the country. Mueller is currently in the top ten in both sacks (11.0, 7th) and tackles for loss (18.5, 10th). The former walk-on doesn't look like he should be one of the best pass rushers in the nation at just 6'2, but that non-ideal height hasn't slowed him from putting up the kind of numbers that jump off the page.

Unfortunately for Kansas State's defense, there is only one Ryan Mueller, and the production falls off drastically from there. Fellow starter Marquel Bryant has just two sacks on the season and three tackles for loss. Backups Laton Dowling and Alauna Finau have 2.5 and 3.0 TFLs respectively to go along with a combined 1.5 sacks.

Fortunately for Michigan, it has a good set of tackles, and while Kansas State can play solid run support against outside runs with the ends, Michigan could use Taylor Lewan to stymie Mueller and slow KSU's ability to generate negative plays.

Defensive Tackle

Starters: Travis Britz (6'4 So.), Chaquil Reed (6''3 Sr.)

Backups: Valentino Coleman (6'2 Jr.), Chris Brown (6'4 Jr.)

Things get a little worse from there. Kansas State is fairly unremarkable on the interior of the defensive line. The two starters — Travis Britz and Chaquil Reed — combined for five sacks this year and ten tackles for loss, but for the most part the interior line is a weakness for Kansas State. There also isn't much depth as backups Valentino Coleman and Chris Brown have played in just four games apiece.

Michigan found a bit of a resurgence running between the tackles at points late in the season (i.e. against Northwestern and Ohio State) and getting traction on the ground will be important in this one.

Outlook

The Wildcats are t-47th in total sacks on the year despite having one of the best pass rushers in the college game and t-83rd in TFLs. This defensive line can play, but there isn't high production from the line to cause Michigan the kind of fits that it has had at points in the past.

The KSU defensive line is helping the defense limit opponents to under four yards per rush, and that is good for fourth in the conference. However, while opponents have gotten 53 rushing plays over 10 yards, Kansas State has only allowed eight of those to go farther than 20 yards. This points to a defensive line that puts its back seven in bad positions that they bail out of.

Michigan will need to establish the run early. Since this isn't anything new, the real question will be how much Michigan's offensive line can gel over this extended bowl practice break. The opportunity is there for Michigan to move the ball, but Kansas State has been an above average defense for the most part, so it is doing something right. Fortunately, it looks like the defensive line might be a bit of a liability.

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