By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN -- When it comes to Kansas State's interior defensive line, nobody has a better view than Travis Britz.
He's knee deep in it.
So if Britz sees the Wildcats' progress at the two tackle positions, who's to argue?
"Looking back from earlier in the season, we've come a long way," said Britz, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior now in his second year as a starter. "It's the attitude of keep getting better every day, don't be satisfied with what you're doing and don't take anything for granted.
"Coach Mo (Latimore) has really pushed us and molded us into the defensive linemen we are now and we still have a long way to go. (But) I believe with time and effort we'll get where we want to be."
Coming into the season, Britz was the only tackle with significant game experience. He started all 13 games last year and saw action in 11 as a true freshman in 2012.
But senior Valentino Coleman and redshirt freshman Will Geary have filled in capably at the other tackle, and the last couple of weeks heralded junior college transfer Terrell Clinkscales has provided additional depth.
But it's Britz, a former all-state selection from Harrisonville, Mo., who has anchored the middle, raising his game for an improving K-State defense that now ranks 16th nationally overall and ninth against the run. His two sacks during last week's 48-14 rout of Oklahoma State gave him three for the year, along with five tackles for loss and 20 overall stops.
"I appreciate how he's maturing into playing the game," K-State coach Bill Snyder said of Britz, who trails only all-Big 12 end Ryan Mueller and pass rush specialist Elijah Lee's 3.5 sacks. "He was kind of loose and had a good time with everything and I'm not sure how seriously he took it earlier.
"But I've seen him become so very, very serious about it -- not that he isn't a fun guy to be around -- and he's really invested himself in that old adage about trying to get better all the time."
Snyder also praised Coleman, a juco transfer who came on strong at the end of last year.
"Both those guys -- Valentino does the same thing -- they practice like they play," Snyder said. "We want to get all our guys to do what they do."
The line's improvement has paralleled the rise of a K-State team now ranked No. 9 by the Associated Press and seventh in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.
The Wildcats, 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the Big 12, face another stiff test Saturday when they travel to No. 6 TCU (7-1, 4-1).
"Our defensive line has improved so much through spring football, (preseason) camp and up to this point," said middle linebacker Will Davis. "They've improved every day.
"Some of the guys that maybe didn't get as much experience earlier in the season have improved in practice and it's showing up on Saturdays now. I'm proud of what they've done and I hope to see them keep on improving."
Britz made life difficult last week for Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman, and the Wildcats are looking for more of the same against TCU's Trevone Boykin, who leads the Big 12 and ranks fourth nationally in total offense with 361.9 yards per game.
"The biggest push we can get, the better it's going to be," Britz said. "Boykin's the kind of athlete that will hurt you on his feet as well, so we're really going to have to contain him and try to get in his face and force some bad (protections) and hopefully that will create some turnovers."