MANHATTAN — There aren’t a lot of soft edges when it comes to Kansas State assistant coach Mo Latimore.
He is a direct, straightforward man. Coaching the Wildcats’ interior defensive line lends itself to that.
So when he pays a compliment, take it to heart.
Travis Britz and Will Geary, are you listening?
“They’re kind of what you build for, to get in a position where you have experienced guys out there,” Latimore said. “And that’s what those two are. They’re both good players, they’re both doing a great job.”
Now that the touchy-feely stuff is out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks: If K-State is going to have any success up front this season, it will have to start with Britz and Geary at the defensive tackle spots.
Britz, a 6-foot-4, 293-pound senior, was already established as a reliable player up front before last season — i.e. he’s not going to get blown off the ball — but he showed another side of his game in 2014 with his first three career sacks, five tackles for loss and 27 tackles.
All of that work was done in 10 games — Britz was sidelined with an injury for the last three games as K-State went 1-2. The interior defensive line didn’t notch a sack or tackle for loss in the last two games — both losses — including a 40-35 loss to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl.
Despite his late-season absence, he was chosen honorable mention All-Big 12 for the second season in a row, and is now tied for K-State’s career lead with five blocked kicks.
“If you’re a competitor, you want to try to help the team in any way possible,” Britz said. “So it was difficult to be out. It was emotional. You want to just throw your crutches to the side and get out there.”
Britz threw himself into rehabbing his injury during the winter and was able to participate in spring practices — with the exception of the spring game — and was elected a team captain.
“(Britz) is well now, he’s coming back real well, coming back and getting into the groove of things,” Latimore said.
“Being out for a little while, he was a little rusty, but he had a good spring.”
In Britz’s absence, the Wildcats turned to Geary to handle much of the load.
The 6-foot, 297-pound Topeka native started five games last season as a redshirt freshman, including the last three games with Britz out. He finished with 30 tackles, including two sacks and one forced fumble.
“The preparation has been a little different headed into this season,” Geary said.
“Everything has meaning, because now I know what it’s like to be out there on the field and what I need to prepare for, what type of shape I need to be in and how tired you get.
“With the offseason, you have time for your mind to settle down and think about what you could’ve done better in each game, think about the thing you need to work on to become a better player. You see what went wrong and how you can improve.”
Britz paid close attention to Geary’s play while he was sidelined and knows the advantage that it gives the Wildcats this season.
“It was difficult to only be able to watch, like I said, but it was encouraging to see Will doing good things,” Britz said.
“I think the experience he got from last year will really help ... I want these guys, even the underclassmen, to act like it’s there last year. To play like that every day. We’ve trained hard in the offseason and done everything right, so hopefully that will pay off.”