Elijah Sullivan working into K-State’s linebacker rotation

K-State sophomore linebacker Elijah Sullivan started against Vanderbilt when K-State lined up in a 4-3 defense. He played the Will weak-side position beside regular starters Trent Tanking (10 tackles) and Jayd Kirby (eight tackles). (K-State Athletics)

MANHATTAN — As a football player gains experience and confidence, it’s said that the game slows down. Elijah Sullivan is finding that to be the case, but coming off his first career start the Kansas State sophomore linebacker knows the game is about to pick up speed.

 

“As I gain experience, I see a lot more things quicker and that’s helping me gain confidence,” Sullivan said. “Everything gets better with reps. You have to get out there to see what you have to do because game speed is a lot different than practice tempo.

“The biggest thing is getting used to the tempo. You have to get your keys and reads early because when we get in the Big 12, teams go fast. After you get your keys read and know where you’re supposed to be, everything slows down a lot more and you can see even more.”

Sullivan started against Vanderbilt when K-State lined up in a 4-3 defense. He played the Will weak-side position beside regular starters Trent Tanking (10 tackles) and Jayd Kirby (eight tackles).

“I thought our linebackers collectively played well,” coach Bill Snyder said. “They certainly made some plays in the ballgame and helped us control the line of scrimmage in most instances. I thought Elijah fit in well and played well.”

Sullivan came off the field in nickel packages, which the Wildcats will employ more often the remainder of the season against the spread offenses common in the Big 12.

“My first start was good,” said Sullivan, a 6-foot, 220-pound redshirt sophomore from Tucker, Ga. “I had fun. The last game (Charlotte) I got a few reps in the second half and starting the game in the first quarter was a change but I liked it.

“The biggest takeway is knowing my assignments: What to do, where to be, where to go, what are the keys,” said Sullivan, who had two assisted tackles in the 14-7 loss at Vanderbilt.

While Tanking and Kirby bring a veteran presence and firm grasp of the system to the Wildcats’ rebuilt linebacking corps, Sullivan can provide a burst of speed and athleticism.

“He’s doing real good,” Kirby said. “He’s getting better each week, which is big for us. He’s a fast player and anytime you have someone with that kind of speed on the field it helps out tremendously.”

“Elijah has that fast twitch and explosiveness,” said defensive end Kyle Ball. “He comes down field hard on blitzes. He’s doing more on special teams and at linebacker so it’s been exciting to see him play more.”

The number of snaps Sullivan gets from here on out depends on his rate of development, but he is off to a fast start with seven tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for the Wildcats (2-1), who have a bye this week before opening Big 12 play at home against Baylor on Sept. 30.

“I just try to do my best when they call my name to go in,” Sullivan said. “When you get out there, you’re communicating with the coaches more and they are showing more trust in you. Three games in, I feel like I’m learning a lot more and seeing a lot more as I get more experience.”


Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.


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