Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for them.
After having really defined Kansas State football for a generation, head coach Bill Snyder retired last season, and the Wildcats ushered in FCS championship coach Chris Klieman. Klieman’s brought a renewed energy to Kansas State, preaching a lunch pail work ethic that he’ll hope to combine with an ethos more suited to modern college football.
That seems like an approach that can be successful at Kansas State, but it’s always tough to follow a legend. For all the good things happening in Manhattan, what kind of team will the Wildcats be in the fall of 2019?
Here we get into some tentative impressions of this year’s team, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about Kansas State football.
|PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS|
|LT||Scott Frantz (Sr.)||LE||Reggie Walker (Sr.)|
|LG||Josh Rivas (So.)||DT||Trey Dishon (Sr.)|
|C||Adam Holtorf (So.)||NG||Joe Davies (Sr.)|
|RG||Tyler Mitchell (Sr.)||RE||Kyle Ball (Sr.)|
|RT||Nick Kaltmayer (Sr.)||WLB||Da’Quan Patton (Sr.)|
|TE||Blaise Gammon (Sr.)||MLB||Elijah Sullivan (Jr.)|
|QB||Skylar Thompson (Jr.)||SLB||Cody Fletcher (Sr.)|
|FB||Adam Harter (Sr.)||CB||Walter Neil Jr. (Sr.)|
|RB||James Gilbert (Sr.)||SS||Denzel Goolsby (Sr.)|
|WR||Dalton Schoen (Jr.)||FS||Wayne Jones (Fr.)|
|WR||Isaiah Zuber (Sr.)||CB||A.J. Parker (Jr.)|
What Even Is Kansas State Football Now?
Especially in terms of accessibility, Chris Klieman and his staff seemed to have brought the Wildcats into the 21st century, particularly with their increased social media presence. There are other signs, of course, that the previous regime’s airtight hold on any information that might come out of the football facility.
For all of that, though, it’s tough to know just what football at Kansas State means in this new era. Had the school decided to hire, say, an Air Raid disciple, Saturdays for Kansas State fans might have taken some getting used to.
With Klieman, it almost feels as thought the more things change at Kansas State, the more things stay the same. The toughness, discipline, and physicality that he’s been preaching since arriving on campus weren’t exactly foreign concepts under the prior staff. That means that ultimately, what happens on game days next fall will tell us more about how the team’s personality will be shaped.
This Team’s Strength Is Its Experience
If nothing else, Klieman and his staff inherited a roster with plenty of starting experience on hand. Eleven senior starters return on both sides of the ball from 2018, and more project to start for the Wildcats next season.
Such a veteran presence would normally be a benefit for a college coaching staff, but at this juncture, it’s hard to know what the transition from Bill Snyder’s system will look like. The last time Kansas State when through that type of coaching change, the on-field results dropped off.
That could happen for Klieman in Manhattan, but the former FCS head coach would not be the first person to jump to FBS and have tremendous success. Either way, it’s probably best to not look too much at 2019 as a picture of how the new head man’s time will go at Kansas State.
The Wildcats May Lean On Their D-Line This Year
Kansas State quietly had one of the better defensive lines in the Big 12 last season, and all of the starters return this season. This is probably the deepest group for the Wildcats, and their presence bodes well for Klieman’s first year in Manhattan.
The defense as a whole will miss Justin Hughes, who will miss the 2019 season after suffering an injury in the spring. That’s a big loss on that side of the ball, but with six out of the front seven coming back for Kansas State, expect a run defense that was one of the best in the Big 12 last year to be at the top of the conference again this season.
How Much Can The Passing Game Be A Threat?
Much like the previous regime, Klieman’s staff was not afraid to run their quarterbacks at North Dakota State. Presumed starter Skylar Thompson has shown that he can fulfill that role, but this team’s most significant struggles have been through the air. Last year, the Wildcats were last in the Big 12 in pass offense, only managing 162.1 yards per game.
There’s no denying that the identity of this team will likely be founded on its rushing attack, but for Kansas State to move forward, they’ll likely need to improve their ability to air out the football. Improvement there might be the most pressing concern for this team throughout the offseason.