Kansas State football prepares for opening game against Arkansas State

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Junior running back Harry Trotter runs in a touchdown during K-State’s football game against KU in David Booth Memorial Stadium on Nov. 2, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks in last year's sunflower showdown 38-10. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

After months of uncertainty, Kansas State football opens the season on Saturday at home against Arkansas State.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to play this Saturday,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “Obviously, we have to do some things right this week with [COVID-19] testing to make sure that we can still stay on course to play, but the guys are excited.”

One challenge the offensive line faces is the lack of continuity among the quarterback and wide receivers.

“Our numbers were down for a period of time,” Klieman said. “We didn’t practice three consecutive days very often because of some of our numbers in certain spots, so I don’t think we had a chance to get a lot of cohesiveness with the quarterback and wide receivers, but it’s getting better.”

The returning receiving corps includes sophomores Joshua Youngblood and Malik Knowles.

Similar to last year, the Wildcats are prepared to fill the running back position by committee. Senior running back Harry Trotter tops the list as the starter, followed by senior Tyler Burns. True freshman Deuce Vaughn is also listed on the depth chart.

Klieman said the Round Rock, Tex., native possesses skills to help K-State in the ground game this season.

“He has a great skill set, he can catch the ball extremely well, he has great vision, he can run inside and outside, and we’re excited to see what he can do,” Klieman said.

The Wildcats are looking to get running backs more involved in the passing game. Trotter aims to help the K-State offense in the air.

“As I’ve had another offseason to look over the playbook, I’ve learned more about what the receivers do on certain routes and schemes,” Trotter said. “I don’t think it will just be me. It will be a lot of us running backs being able to come out of the backfield, whatever it may be — sweep motions, pass routes, whatever Coach [Messingham] needs us to do, we can step up and do it.”

The K-State backfield did not record a receiving touchdown in 2019 and Jordon Brown, the leading back in receiving yards, is no longer in the program.

Despite that, K-State has the advantage of watching Arkansas State play against Memphis on Saturday. They lost 37-24.

Senior linebacker Justin Hughes compared the Red Wolves’ offense to Texas Tech. Hughes sees this matchup as an opportunity to see a fast-paced tempo similar to Big 12 opponents.

“It’s great seeing that the first week and getting prepared for our league and just being able to have that type a team to prepare for the Big 12 challenges, like Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, all those guys,” Hughes said. “Just being able to have a team to prepare for that like that is truly a great opportunity for us as a team to come out for the first week of the season.”

Hughes returns to the starting lineup on Saturday after missing last season with a torn ACL.

Even though Hughes missed a full year, Klieman said he shows outstanding leadership.

“From understanding what we’re doing and getting guys lined up and being a great voice and communicator out there, he’s every bit of what I knew he was going to be,” Klieman said. “From a physical standpoint, I know he’s going just to continue to get stronger as the year goes on.”

The Wildcats face the Red Wolves before jumping into the conference schedule. K-State is 2-0 all-time over Arkansas State, but the two schools have not played since 1980. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 on Fox Sports One.

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