MANHATTAN (AP) — In just six games, Blake Slaughter has gone from second team to a “game-day decision” to Kansas State’s third-leading tackler.
The sophomore linebacker has obviously impressed Bill Snyder. The Wildcats’ head coach likes his potential.
“He’s still learning about, A, the system, and , B, just being at the right place at the right time,” Snyder said. “His aggressiveness sometimes can get him out of position, but overall he’s done well. Numbers are good, but there’s a little more to it than that.”
Slaughter, a Texas native, began standing out in the 17-13 victory over Central Florida on Sept. 25. Three minutes into the fourth quarter of a tight game, the Knights snapped the ball on Kansas State’s 4-yard line on third down. Slaughter broke through the offensive line and sacked quarterback Jeff Godfrey for a 10-yard loss.
He has continued to be a defensive standout.
“That’s all I’m out here trying to do — help the team any way I can and not be a liability,” he said.
Slaughter attributes his improvement to attention to detail — focusing on taking the right steps, making the right reads, using the correct hand placement and other nuances of his position. Already third on the team in total tackles with 23, Slaughter has also prospered under the tutelage of his older teammate, Alex Hrebec, the team leader with 39 tackles.
Snyder approves of Slaughter’s choice of Hrebec as a player to emulate.
“He is very steady and consistent,” he said. “He always plays hard and is always into the game. He is one of those guys that if you put him on the field for 70 snaps, he is going to play them all the same way.”
Slaughter also credits defensive coordinator Chris Cosh with helping him get better.
But so does just about everyone else in Kansas State uniform. Under Cosh, the defense improved from No. 117 overall in 2008 to No. 39 in 2009. While winning five of their first six games this year, Slaughter and his teammates held UCLA to 22 points and Central Florida to 13. Their stats and their pride took a big hit when then-No. 7 Nebraska amassed more than 500 yards in a 48-13 blowout. But then came last week’s game against Kansas and the Wildcats found themselves on the right side of a 59-7 rout.
“He’s always going to push you,” Slaughter said of Cosh. “He’s always expecting the best out of you. He believes in you and he’s going to stand behind you. That helps.”