Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Chris Klieman’s debut, John Holcombe and undefeated Big 12 football

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

No need for an elaborate intro this week. Let’s dive right into your questions about Chris Klieman’s impressive debut and everything else going on in the world of K-State sports. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

I’m going to stick with my 6-6 prediction for now. I felt like that record was a bit of an optimistic reach before the season, but now that I have seen the Wildcats in action I’m confident they will play in a bowl game.

K-State was better than expected. It got off to the best start of all the Big 12 teams that hired new coaches and looked better than ranked Iowa State in Week 1.

But I will stick with my original prediction until the Wildcats duplicate that effort against a better opponent.

I didn’t expect the Wildcats to look that sharp on offense.

K-State came out and played a nearly flawless first half while showing new formations and substituting players at a rapid pace. I thought it would take at least a little time to adjust to all that in a live game, but I was wrong.

Skylar Thompson looked like Carson Wentz or Easton Stick out there, a veteran instead or a newbie. Had Malik Knowles and Dalton Schoen done a little more and secured every pass that hit their hands, the Wildcats would have won by even more.

Courtney Messingham’s offense might have looked dramatically different from what we were used to under Bill Snyder, especially on the opening drive when he changed formations a dozen times and used 20 players, but that doesn’t mean K-State was pulling out all the stops against Nicholls.

I think what we saw in Week 1 was their version of a “vanilla” offense.

Messingham definitely held some plays back. K-State didn’t do a lot of the stuff North Dakota State showed in the FCS playoffs last season.

For example: There was very little pre-snap motion. A receiver or fullback occasionally moved from one side of the line to the other before the play began, but that was about it. When the games get more competitive, I suspect we will see K-State do a whole lot more than that.

The Wildcats will show one look for a few seconds and then shift into their true formation for the play. When Messingham is calling haymakers from the press box, his offense resembles a pro team in that way.

I also didn’t notice much misdirection on Saturday. That should change when K-State heads to Mississippi State.

Will it be an advantage there and in future games? Possibly. But he already put all that stuff on film when he was with Bison. So unless he has a new set of plays he has never used as a coach, it shouldn’t come as a total shock to anyone.

A short-yardage package for backup quarterback John Holcombe seems like a great idea.

Props to former K-State offensive lineman Nick Leckey for first suggesting it here.

But that’s not something you break out in Week 2 against Bowling Green. You save that for Mississippi State or a Big 12 opponent.

It sounds like it will definitely get used at some point, though. Klieman mentioned it as a possibility on Tuesday and Messingham echoed that statement two days later by saying he wants to keep Holcombe involved with the offense.

I was slow to warm up to the idea of a wildcat quarterback under Klieman, mostly because it wasn’t a thing at North Dakota State, but after seeing Holcombe in action last week I’m beginning to come around.

Look at this 21-yard gain he pulled off with his feet:

Holcombe is 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds. He used to play defensive end in high school. It makes all the sense in the world to use him the same way Oklahoma used to run Blake Bell.

My only concern: As good as Skylar Thompson played last week, should anyone really be lobbying for plays that take him off the field?

Jax Dineen and Joshua Youngblood will continue to play every week and probably see significant action as the games get bigger.

Dineen was thrust into action at fullback when Adam Harter went down with a season-ending injury. As long as he’s out, Dineen will be in there helping Mason Barta and Nick Lenners.

I like what I saw from him last weekend. And I love that Kyle Ball calls him “a bowling ball of muscle.” He’s got a bright future.

So does Youngblood. He was interestingly used mainly as a blocker against Nicholls. Coaches even used him in the single receiver formation that led to a Harry Trotter rushing touchdown. He was held without a catch, which was disappointing for everyone who bought into his hype. But he still did some good things and saw as many snaps as some seniors.

He will become a contributor in the passing game sooner rather than later.

I’m not a big believer in redshirts, but there’s no reason to limit those two freshmen to four games. Question is: Can any other freshmen, like Joe Ervin, join them?

The Big 12’s reign as the undefeated overlord conference of college football probably comes to an end this weekend.

But it was glorious while it lasted, wasn’t it?

West Virginia is a 13 1/2-point underdog at Missouri a week after not looking all that great against James Madison.

Texas is also a home underdog against LSU. And Kansas is no lock to beat Coastal Carolina.

The odds of the Big 12 running the table again in Week 2 seem slim. I think West Virginia goes down against a motivated Missouri team that just lost to Wyoming.

What a question!

1. Bald eagle: They can do whatever the heck they want as our national bird.

2. Golden eagle: According to a children’s book I often get roped into reading my kids, they can spot prey clearly from miles away.

3. Falcon: I wish I had a trained hunting falcon.

4. Osprey: Not familiar with this bird. But it has a fun name.

5. Vulture: It’s definitely lame that they only eat leftovers, but I’ve never seen a small vulture. Must not be all bad.

I’m with you on this one. The Wildcats should upgrade all of their mini sledgehammers to full-size sledgehammers.

What’s the fun of carrying a sledgehammer everywhere you go like Jonathan Alexander if you can’t show it off?

It was a thrill coming up with so many coin puns, but I must say the GIFs were a bit disappointing.

Once you’ve seen one bucket of coins falling to the ground you’ve seen them all.

The best GIF opponent I can recall was Loyola-Chicago. I ignored their actual nickname and just tweeted a bunch of nun GIFs in honor of Sister Jean. That was fun, alas the game was a buzzkill.

Bears are always a good GIF opponent and so are any type of weather-related mascot like Cyclones or Hurricanes.

The Anteaters were up there, too. I hope K-State schedules the Campbell Camels in a game at some point.

Next week should be fun. I will be choosing between bowling, falcons and the color green.

At least 250 pounds.

Klieman likes to get in a workout everyday over lunch and his arms look pretty big in those dri-fit shirts of his. It seems like he has gotten bigger since he arrived in Manhattan.

New jerseys: Not until 2020. Teams have to give Nike months of notice to get new jerseys, and the Cats couldn’t make that happen for this season.

New helmets: Maybe this season. Klieman has hinted about making subtle changes to K-State’s uniform concept this year, and new helmets could be part of the deal. Fans will definitely see something different this season. K-State’s pregame uniform tweet from last week was a dead giveaway.

At some point this season, K-State will begin a similar tweet with words other than “Classic Home Threads” and fans will eat it up.

Barring injury to one of the top three running backs, I think Tyler Burns will remain No. 4 in the rotation and see most of his action in garbage time.

That’s not a knock on him. He looked good running for 64 yards and a touchdown against Nicholls. And he has a heck of a story to tell. Seriously, go read it.

But James Gilbert, Harry Trotter and Jordon Brown formed a heck of a committee in Week 1. They all looked great. I doubt K-State is looking to change that.

There is definitely some concern there. Not a lot, but some. I think left tackle Scott Frantz plays against Bowling Green, but maybe not the entire game.

Hopefully the Wildcats can manage his reps, give some other blockers a chance to play and have Frantz back at full strength for Week 3.

Chris Klieman. Hang the banner.

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