Coach Klieman talks Spring Showcase, team improvements at press conference

Head coach Chris Klieman talks about his gratitude towards the K-State Family at a press conference in December 2018. On Saturday, Wildcat fans will see the new coach in action at the Spring Showcase. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Now that legendary football coach Bill Snyder has officially retired, the Kansas State football team’s new head coach Chris Klieman has big shoes to fill, and K-State fans will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the new coach in action with a Spring Showcase on Saturday.

Fortunately for Wildcat fans, Klieman said at a Tuesday press conference that he is already seeing improvement during spring practices as the Wildcats enter the final week of spring camp.

“Obviously, it’s a work in progress,” Klieman said. “Every day, I’m learning a little bit more about the position, or a young man. They’re practicing hard, we’re learning, it’s going to take time. I think all of us coaches have seen tremendous improvement from practices one to four, four to eight and eight to 12, so we’re making strides.”

Spring practices provide an opportunity to experiment with players in various positions before things are more finalized in the fall. For example, junior wide receiver D.J. Render has spent some time as a safety in the last few practices.

“It’s an experiment right now,” Klieman said. “D.J. did some really good things on a tackling circuit that we had from a special teams point of view, and so we wanted to give him an opportunity just to see where he would be.”

Render previously appeared in seven games for the Wildcats in 2017, primarily on special teams.

Klieman also discussed junior quarterback Skylar Thompson’s progression with the new offense throughout spring practices.

“I’m really pleased with where Skylar’s come from day one,” Klieman said. “To be able to make some calls on his own, to be able to change the protection, to be able to change a play to be able to get out of something that he knows probably isn’t going to be the best plan [has] put us in a better opportunity to be successful.”

Thompson finished seventh in total offense in the Big 12 Conference last season, averaging 160.4 yards per game, and he is expected to improve even more in the upcoming season.

Despite the strides Klieman said he has seen, he emphasized that it also comes down to the players to improve off the field.

“It can’t just stop at the end of spring,” Klieman said. “All these guys [are] going to continue to work on their own — not just getting bigger, stronger, faster, but looking at install notes, looking at some film from the spring so that they stay on top of their game.”

Rather than having a traditional Spring Game, K-State is putting on an open practice session for fans this year called the Spring Showcase. While a regular practice session may generate slightly less excitement about the upcoming season than a football scrimmage, Klieman said the decision was made for good reasons.

“We only have two active corners that are not in red jerseys, so we can’t have a full scrimmage, and we only have a couple of active defensive ends that are not in a red jersey, and so we want to be smart with our guys,” Klieman said. “As far as you know, K-State’s not on the schedule for next year, so we want to make sure that we get our work done so you can see a practice.”

The K-State Spring Showcase is set to begin Saturday at 1 p.m. in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Tickets are available to the public, starting at $5 per person.