April 17, 2008

Balkcom stepping up along d-line

Dressed neatly in a white shirt and tie, senior Brandon Balkcom spent a part of his Thursday afternoon "dressing to impress" as he puts it, as he attended career day events at Kansas State. During spring practice, the 6-foot nose tackle has compiled an impressive resume behind agility and increased weight to 290 pounds that could make him fun to watch when the Wildcats kickoff their annual Purple-White spring game Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

K-State coach Ron Prince during a news conference Thursday listed a small busload of players who caught his eye through the first 14 spring workouts.

On a defensive unit that has been a big part of Prince's focus during the spring, Balkcom's name is listed at the top.

"You could make an argument that Brandon Balkcom is probably as improved as any player on defense," Prince said. "I'm really pleased with his development."

After playing in all 12 games a year ago and starting in two of the last three during a 5-7 season, Balkcom hopes to spearhead a defensive interior while two-team All-Big 12 selection Ian Campbell terrorizes opponents from the defensive end spot.

Informed of Prince's praise, Balkcom offered so sign of relief, instead furrowing his brow as if contemplating the road ahead -- for himself and the defense.

"I've been working hard and this is my last year," he said. "I don't want to go out like the past seniors have gone out. I want to go out on top. I want this to be the defense that we had back in the old days. I want there to be greatness again."

It's early, but Prince didn't appear displeased with any facet of his team's performance in the spring while concentrating on improvement along both the offensive and defensive lines.

"We really feel like we have some good depth at the offensive line and that's allowed us to have some plays where we can really see if the quarterback and wide receiver can challenge the defense without the pass rush coming and being a factor on every single play," Prince said. "That's really made it possible for Jeron Mastrud to take a step forward. As Balkcom has been for the defense, Mastrud has been for the offense. He's really done a good job blocking and he's putting a body of work together that's been pretty impressive for him."

The Wildcats returning notable players have apparently put together solid springs. Prince called junior quarterback Josh Freeman "terrific" and said speedy linebacker Antwon Moore has provided a spark in his first competitive action since being lost to injury early last season.

"I've also been really pleased with Eric Childs and how he's come along and Joshua Moore has shown no signs of rustiness at all and really has been really hard to deal with from an offensive standpoint," Prince said.

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