Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: How will a Justin Hughes injury impact Chris Klieman’s first season?

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Thanks, as always, for supplying some great questions. Let’s get right to them.

Very significant. If Justin Hughes is unable to play next season because of an injury earlier this week at spring practice, and all signs currently point to him being sidelined in 2019, the Wildcats will lose their top linebacker and a potential team captain. They will also lose much-needed depth in the middle of their defense.

Hughes started seven games and make 56 tackles last season. He was a nobody when the year began, but looked like a star when the year ended. Coaches and teammates have raved about his progress this spring. He was turning into a feel-good story with big-time potential this season.

But now K-State fans will have to hope he can obtain a waiver from the NCAA that will allow him to maintain his eligibility for 2020.

With Hughes, DaQuan Patton and Elijah Sullivan, it seemed like K-State had three quality linebackers for two spots in Scottie Hazelton’s system. Now Patton and Sullivan will need to play alongside each other, and it’s unclear who their backups will be. Cody Fletcher? Daniel Green? Eric Gallon? An incoming freshman?

Some unproven linebackers will be thrust into action at times next season.

I don’t know about a lot, but odds are good that he will play some next season.

Daniel Green is a former four-star recruit with all the skills to play for the Wildcats. But he’s also a redshirt freshman without any college experience.

It sounds like he was the No. 5 linebacker before Hughes got injured. This could thrust him into backup duty.

I can envision quite a few different scenarios for the Wildcats in Chris Klieman’s first season. The ceiling and floor are probably wider apart than usual.

Best case: The freshmen and transfers make big contributions, especially at running back, and K-State’s returning starters make strides under a new coaching staff. Skylar Thompson makes a huge jump and the defense ranks among the best in the conference. With seven home games and a friendly road Big 12 draw that features winnable games at Kansas and Texas Tech, the Wildcats turn some heads on their way to an 8-4 record.

Worst case: Thompson and a solid core of receivers struggle without Dalton Risner and Alex Barnes or a single proven running back on the roster. The defense also takes a step back without Duke Shelley, Kendall Adams and now Justin Hughes. The Wildcats will need to take advantage of early home games against Nicholls and Bowling Green, because the next five (at Mississippi State, at Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma) won’t be easy. If Bill Snyder’s players aren’t a good match for Klieman’s system, the Wildcats could finish somewhere near 4-8.

There are so many unknowns right now. Like I mentioned last week, this is not the type of team you want to wager $100 on winning a set number of games next season.

I have no idea what Bill Snyder’s plans are for this weekend.

My gut says he won’t be strolling the sidelines, though. If he makes an appearance at K-State’s spring showcase, he will more likely spend the afternoon in the stadium suites or coaching offices surrounding the field.

Snyder has mostly stayed away from K-State football since he retired. He showed up at Klieman’s introductory news conference and gave some golf claps during his opening statement. But that’s about it. When asked to share his thoughts on the new coach with reporters, Snyder declined and said the day belonged to Klieman.

And he’s given Klieman space since then. He has spoken at coaching clinics in Nebraska and Missouri. He chose not to attend K-State’s pro day.

But he also made some appearances at K-State basketball games in March and sent out a letter to fans thanking them for their continued support of his family. Maybe he’s ready to attend a K-State football event.

Since 2007, Bruce Weber and Bill Self are the only Big 12 basketball coaches who have won or shared multiple conference championships.

It’s fun to cherry pick stats!

K-State fans can certainly criticize Weber for not having more success in the NCAA Tournament. Losing in the first round twice as a No. 4 seed is suboptimal. But he also took the Wildcats to the Elite Eight last year. His NCAA Tournament record at K-State is 4-5. It’s not like he’s 1-8.

You went back to 2000 in your question. During that time frame, Weber took Southern Illinois to the Sweet 16, Illinois to the national championship game and K-State to the Elite Eight.

He could get back to the Final Four some day. He might not, but it’s possible. He was a game away without Dean Wade just 12 months ago.

Either way, I would advise against judging a coach solely on his performance in a single-elimination tournament that is always unpredictable. There’s much more to evaluate.

Tom Herman = Patrick Reed. Both are young stars with some impressive wins. Neither is universally loved.

Lincoln Riley = Rory McIlroy. A big winner at a young age who also has come up short at times in big events.

Chris Klieman = Jason Gore. Much like Klieman at North Dakota State, Gore was the king of the Web.com Tour before moving up and playing with the big boys on the PGA Tour. Gore won seven tournaments on the Web.com Tour, more than any other golfer. Klieman won four FCS championships at NDSU. Can Klieman continue winning at K-State?

Mike Gundy = Rickie Fowler. Both were star athletes at Oklahoma State, neither has won a major, and Fowler has rocked some mullet-type hair before.

Gary Patterson = Craig Stadler. The Walrus nickname works for both.

Neal Brown = Cameron Champ. Many are looking forward to seeing what the big-hitting rookie can accomplish now that he’s playing with the big boys.

Matt Rhule = Fred Couples. Both are very likeable, but probably get more respect than their accomplishments suggest.

Matt Campbell = Jon Rahm. A promising young golfer with much still to prove.

Matt Wells = Jim Furyk. Texas Tech is used to offensive masterminds. The PGA Tour likes smooth-swinging youngsters. Both have found success in unconventional ways. They also kind of look alike.

Les Miles = John Daly. Did you see him playing corn hole and flip cup with KU students last week?

There are three backyard games I enjoy more than the rest:

1. Corn hole.

2. Giant Jenga.

3. Bottle Bash.

Give me a football and I will gladly throw that around, too. But that can get sweaty fast in the summer. There’s no running at all in the games mentioned above. And you can play them all with a drink in your left hand.

Let’s pick up some Stone IPA, Boulevard Tropical Pale Ale, Negro Modelo (with lime) or Old Milwaukee (with pineapple juice) and play all three.

The days of watching early season K-State basketball games on FSKC are over. So are the days of watching one K-State football game per year on the school’s website. And so are the days of watching K-State baseball games on Cox Cable.

Starting next football season, the vast majority of K-State sporting events will only be available on the ESPN family of networks. The basketball games that used to be on FSKC will now move to ESPN+ and you will have to purchase a subscription (currently $5 a month) to stream them.

Most football games and conference basketball games will remain on the primary ESPN networks (available with a standard cable subscription). There’s nothing changing there. But anything you used to watch on FSKC, Cox Cable or ESPN3 will be under the ESPN+ flag.

Texas and Oklahoma already have homes for their third-tier broadcast rights. And now the eight other teams in the Big 12 have pooled their third-tier rights together on ESPN+. Plan accordingly.

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