Big 12 football is starting to get into full swing across the conference. Most teams start within the next two weeks, and it’s certainly refreshing to know that once again NCAA-sanctioned football is happening on college campuses.
Each Big 12 squad faces its own questions, and all ten will seek to answer those over the course of the next month or so as spring practices come and go.
We’re examining the areas where they’ll hope to make progress throughout their allocated fifteen practices, and here we look at the Kansas State Wildcats, who begin practices today.
After so many years of uninterrupted routine, suddenly change has come to Manhattan, Kansas. Former FCS-championship coach Chris Klieman comes in as the new head coach, looking to revive a program that seemed to be stagnant for the past few years.
Jumping to FBS the way Klieman has is more of a rarity in college football, so there’s a good deal of ambiguity around how well he can be expected to do in Year One.
One advantage the new coaching staff will have is experience. There are veterans on both sides of the ball. Presumably, many of those players who earned starting spots under the previous regime will have to earn anything they get, though.
Roster shakeups shouldn’t be a surprise, but there are a few players who likely have an edge because they’ve logged significant snaps in college football games.
PRACTICE BEGINS: WED, March 6
SPRING GAME: SAT, April 13
LOCATION: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (Manhattan, KS)
It’s difficult to know exactly what Klieman will want to do with the offense, but there are definitely seasoned players there.
With last year’s co-starter Alex Delton having transferred to TCU, Junior Skylar Thompson probably has the inside track to the starting job at quarterback. Thompson’s played in nineteen games and is the only upperclassman on the roster at his position, so he is by far the most seasoned player.
There’s plenty of returning experience at wide receiver, tight end, and fullback. Running back will be the real priority for the Wildcats this spring. All three running backs who toted the rock last season are gone, so Klieman and his staff will have to identify some new talents there.
That won’t be as much of a problem along the offensive line, where three starters return.
There’s similar depth along the defensive line for Kansas State, where all four down linemen are back. That includes Trey Dishon and Reggie Walker, two players who will no doubt be key to next year’s efforts.
New members of this Wildcats staff may not play a lot of classic 4-3 defense, but multiple linebackers from the two-deep are back. That includes starters Elijah Sullivan and Da’Quan Patton.
In the secondary, a couple of departures will create gaps a safety and corner, but those might be the biggest questions on defense for the Wildcats. Overall, that side of the ball is very seasoned.
And indeed, you could say that about the whole team. Whatever issues the new coaching staff faces, there’s certainly not a lack of experience in Manhattan.
Will it take a while, though, for Klieman to get so many veterans accustomed to his way of doing things? Only time will tell, but spring practices might give us some indication of how his staff will progress in that regard.