MANHATTAN — Trey Dishon came to Kansas State with no delusions about the life of a defensive tackle.

It's not pretty in the trenches, where massive bodies collide — irresistible force vs. immovable objects.

And Dishon, a 6-foot-2, 311-pound senior from Horton, played the part well. He earned a starting job as a redshirt freshman and has remained in the lineup ever since, earning all-Big 12 honorable mention in 2018.

So why, after four years in Manhattan, does Dishon all of a sudden feel liberated? Simple. Because he is.

When Chris Klieman took over as head coach last December and brought in a new staff, K-State also installed a defensive system that gave Dishon and the rest of the interior linemen a new lease on life.

"What's changed is it has expanded my role," Dishon said, clearly excited about the possibilities. "It has expanded my play where the old playbook, the old scheme was just me taking up double-teams and sitting in the gap. In this scheme we're playmakers now.

"It's like, 'You guys go make a play.' It's expanded my role to be able to go out there and rush the passer, get some TFLs (tackles for loss), stuff like that."

Dishon, whose 37 career starts rank second only to offensive lineman Scott Frantz's 37, has put up respectable numbers in his first three seasons with 65 career tackles, including 10 for loss and five sacks. Last year, he had a career-high 26 stops, but only two behind the line of scrimmage and one sack.

New defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo is expecting even more this year.

"We're counting on him to continue to be a great playmaker," Tuiasosopo said. "He leads us with the way he works on the field, so when we're doing fundamentals, he's the guy leading the way. We couldn't ask for a better leader than Trey Dishon."

In Dishon and fellow seniors Joe Davies and Jordan Mittie, who split starts at the other tackle spot, the Wildcats have a solid nucleus on the interior. Tuiasosopo said he would like to expand that rotation, with junior Drew Wiley, sophomore Eli Huggins and redshirt freshman Jaylen Pickle adding to the depth.

But it all revolves around Dishon.

"Trey is a very, very smart player," Tuiasosopo said. "He can do either (tackle position). He can do the three technique and he can do the nose, and so we're a little bit interchangeable that way.

"We expect him to be an anchor in the middle. We expect him to be able to hold up against good zone teams and good power teams. We expect great play out of him."

The players clearly have bought into the new system, according to Dishon. And they're definitely more relaxed.

"With coach Tui, I think he's brought a lot of fun to our meeting room," Dishon said. "Whether we're out on the field, whether we're in the meeting room, meeting and watching film and stuff, it's good to have a coach who livens it up a little bit, who shows them he cares.

"It lets them play better. Where if you're worried about getting your butt ripped all the time or something like that, sometimes people don't react well to that."

The chance to make a difference, on the other hand, has everybody excited.

"That's what football's about," Dishon said with a smile. "That's what defensive line is about — just nasty, physical big guys wanting to make plays.

"You got to be nasty (before), and now you get to make plays. That's the best part, making plays."