Ten days have passed since spring football practice came to an end at Kansas State, and new coach Chris Klieman has used that time to reflect on his first month of on-field work with the Wildcats.
His thoughts on the current state of the program are wide ranging.
“We’re still light years away from being ready to play a game,” Klieman said Tuesday during a Big 12 football coaches’ teleconference, “but I noticed how we want them to practice and the culture of how we’re practicing with our double reps over the last four and five practices, the guys were really buying in.”
“They were having fun out there. We found some playmakers and we obviously have some depth issues, as a lot of schools do, especially in the spring with season-ending surgeries that a lot of teams go through. I’m really pleased with the progress we made and we just need to continue that progress that we’ve made in the spring into the summer.”
Klieman was impressed with K-State players at several positions during late March and early April, especially up front on the offensive and defensive lines. The Wildcats return five blockers with starting experience on offense and proven talent at both end and tackle on defense.
They seem like good fits for Klieman’s physical style of play.
But there are questions marks at other positions. For example, Klieman has serious depth concerns at running back, tight end and defensive back. That much was obvious when he asked players at deeper positions to try and help at those spots.
Linebacker also became an issue when projected starter Justin Hughes tore an ACL in spring practice that will prevent him from playing next season.
There is much improvement to be made before K-State opens its season against Nicholls on Aug. 31.
“I think we’re going to be a better team as the season goes along as we continue to put in more of our own offense and more of our own defense,” Klieman said. “I know that there’s some talented players out there that, if we can keep them healthy, we can have a chance to get those guys out there and make a lot of plays on either side of the ball. I hope (fans) see a really disciplined, physical football team, and that’s probably what they’ve seen in the past at Kansas State.”
Klieman mentioned several standout players during spring practice, but now that it’s over he feels confident enough to name the top two individual performers.
On offense, he was most pleased with quarterback Skylar Thompson for showing comfort in a new pro-style offense that features more pre-snap wrinkles than he was used to.
On defense, Klieman praised defensive end Wyatt Hubert, calling him a “natural, really good football player.”
“Those two guys on a daily basis always made a splash play or two,” Klieman said, “that really jumped off the page at you.”
K-State’s roster will look quite a bit different when the Wildcats begin summer practice in a few months, as incoming freshman join the fold and begin pushing for playing time.
But Klieman is pushing his current players now. He doesn’t want to wait light years before the Wildcats are ready to win a football game.
“The biggest challenge is continuing to get the guys to understand our schemes offensively and defensively,” Klieman said. “The terminology is foreign to them and we did a nice job, but it’s a non-stop challenge to see how much more we can give these guys that they can be able to handle.”