After successful first season in Manhattan, head coach Chris Klieman must determine the best way to develop Kansas State football’s roster despite an inability to practice.
All teams are going through these issues, but Kansas State football – who are coming off an eight win season and bowl appearance – must focus and figure out how to develop the roster full of new starters or new to the roster. How the Wildcat coaching staff is able to navigate these unique circumstances could have a great impact on how well the team fares on the football field this fall.
Most of the offensive skill position players return, but concerns remain on the offensive line, where all five of the 2019 starters must be replaced due to graduation. Christian Duffie and Kaitori Leveston have been with the program now for multiple years, and worked in the offense last season so there should be a level of familiarity, but the playing time experience is lacking.
Junior guard Josh Rivas is the most experienced offensive lineman of the group and looks to be a starter on the inside this season, at either guard or at center. Junior college offensive lineman Dawson Delforge is a name to keep an eye on as a potential new face earning playing time in 2020.
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Perhaps the most impacted are the wide receivers who need time with senior quarterback Skylar Thompson to develop timing and chemistry. True freshman Will Howard has lost valuable time working with coaches both on the practice field and in the film room as he readies to compete for playing time in 2020 behind Thompson at the quarterback spot.
On defense – much like the offense – most of the defensive line will have to be replaced. The only returning starter is perhaps the squad’s best player in defensive end Wyatt Hubert.
The Wildcats signed two junior college defensive tackles, bringing in Robert Hentz and Derick Newton to help fill the voids at in the middle. Kirmari Gainous was signed from Hutchinson junior college at defensive end to help fill the spot vacated by Reggie Walker.
The position group most impacted is the depth at cornerback. Kansas State signed multiple early enrollees in the 2020 recruiting class, hoping to get a jump on development, including Tee Denson and TJ Smith, defensive backs from the Atlanta area.
These are interesting and trying times for everyone, both personally and professionally. Will there be football this fall? Will fans be in attendance? These are all questions that are beginning to be asked.
However, the Wildcats coaching staff – just as other coaching staffs in the country – are working as best they can to work with, teach, and develop the roster to the best of their ability despite the distancing limitations.
Also, Wildcats fans should keep an eye on a graduate transfer linebacker from North Dakota State, Klieman’s old stomping grounds. Despite interest from other big name programs such as LSU and Texas, this linebacker that went to high school in the KC metro area will be unable to visit these schools before he’ll need to make a decision.
Will familiarity with both the defensive scheme and the coaching staff, along with a local program be the pull needed to bring him in?
Hopefully there’s football this fall so we can see Kansas State football continue to develop under Chris Klieman.