Kolt Trachsel credits a lot of his growth at linebacker to learning under Fort Hays State's Jose Delgado for the past few seasons.

Now, the senior linebacker wants to fill the void left by Delgado as the elder statesman of the Tiger defense.

Delgado, last season's MIAA defensive player of the year, finished his career as the program's all-time NCAA leader in tackles with 398 from his linebacker spot.

“It’s big shoes to fill,” Trachsel said. “I learned a lot from him, how he played and what he did. He had to do a lot of extra stuff to get where he did, and it paid off. He taught me a lot of stuff and I think it’s been paying off and I’m excited for this season.”

Trachsel, a 6-foot, 220-pound Goodland native, will now be one of the main leaders on the FHSU defense, with 23 career starts under his belt.

“Kolt is the real big one on the defense,” Fort Hays State coach Chris Brown said when asked about leadership roles. "He’s been in there the last three years and now this is his chance to be the guy. He really needs to get those guys underneath his wing, study quite a bit with them and get them on the same page.”

Trachsel recorded 59 tackles with three sacks last year, starting all 12 games. He's earned honorable mention honors the last two seasons.

“I think the leadership role changes a little bit,” Trachsel said. “But we’ve got a lot of these younger guys that will step up and act like they’ve been there before. We kind of all share that leadership role and we all work together.”

Trachsel said he expects new defensive standouts to emerge this year, with the Tigers looking to replace stalwarts like Delgado, Doyin Jibowu, Wyatt Parker and Connor Shedeed. 

“We were fortunate to have those guys on our side,” Trachsel said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to be stepping up this year. I think those guys are are going to rise to the challenge. Nathan Shepherd, Doyin (Jibowu), Jose, they set a good example for these younger guys. These guys know what it takes to play a role on our defense and accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The Tiger defense, which allowed just under 19 points per game last year, will be young in the secondary with sophomore Jhimon Preston and Jordan Starks and redshirt freshman Will White expected to step into key roles.

 “I don’t expect a drop off,” Trachsel said of the defensive backs. “These younger guys have been putting in a lot of extra work, you don’t see that too often. These guys know they have to work.”

The defending back-to-back MIAA champion Tigers will open the season at Sept. 5 at Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.

“Obviously we want a conference championship, but we want to get to that next step,” Trachsel said. “We’re focused on that first game. That first game is a key piece to our puzzle.”