Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman updated K-State fans on the status of his position groups for the upcoming season at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon from the newly-finished Shamrock Zone at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“I feel a lot better than last season with the limitations we had on both sides of the ball,” Klieman said during the press conference. “I know we’re deeper with explosive players.”
Klieman previously mentioned that the Wildcat offensive line would consist of roughly 10 players putting in significant time. That number is down to eight or nine after announcing that sophomore offensive lineman Taylor Poitier would miss the season with an injury.
“He’ll miss this season. We’re sad for Taylor because he’s such a tremendous kid and a tremendous football player,” Klieman said. “I still think we’re in that eight and nine mode, we obviously lose one player in Taylor. I know there’s eight for sure … we’re hoping to get to nine.”
Behind that offensive line, he compared super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson to former North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick — now a back-up quarterback with the Los Angeles Chargers — based on his experience.
“Just the efficiency and making great decisions,” Klieman said of his signal-caller. “He’s been so good this fall camp. Arm is live, his body looks good — moving around really well.”
He also praised his depth at running back, mentioning his plans to use several players throughout the year, possibly three at once at the position.
“To keep them fresh,” Klieman said. “We’re playing a lot of two-back sets and sometimes they are flexed out, or the stress you put on a defense by running two and three-back sets. You don’t know exactly where the play’s going to start at. … It’s hard to play running back at any level.”
Klieman shouted out senior Landry Weber and junior transfer Tyrone Howell as wide receivers, expecting them to make an impact on the season and go deeper this year.
On the other side of the ball, he provided clarity about positions of need in the secondary. He mentioned they would have a package of bigger, more linebacker-type players at nickelback for some situations and a faster package designed to match offensive sets.
“At nickel for us right now would be Reggie Stubblefield and Aamaris Brown and we have a couple of different packages where we’ll use a little bit bigger player,” Klieman said. “That’s a position we feel much better about at the end of fall camp than we did at the beginning of fall camp.”
Linebackers coach Steve Stannard filled the spots behind his two starting linebackers — super-senior Cody Fletcher and junior Daniel Green.
“Both Austin [Moore] and Nick Allen have really done a nice job,” Stannard said. “I’m encouraged that they’re going to be able to spell [Green] and [Fletcher] at times. … We’re going to have some rotation there.”
K-State said goodbye to former All-Big 12 defensive end Wyatt Hubert in the NFL Draft, but defensive ends coach Buddy Wyatt said they have players who can take over the position.
“It’s going to be hard to replace [Hubert],” Wyatt said. “I think we have some guys who can step up. It’s going to be more by committee, probably than just one person. I’m excited, the guys have been working really hard and they’ve really improved.”
He mentioned Felix Anudike, Nate Matlack, Bronson Massie and Spencer Trussell as players filling the void left by Hubert.
Defensive tackle coach Mike Tuiasosopo said he feels the best he’s felt about his position group in his three years at K-State.
Klieman also praised his overall depth on the defensive side of the ball, mentioning the increased focus on defense compared to his past two years at K-State.
“We had some elite players last year, but overall across the board we’re deeper and I think that will help us,” Klieman said. “We have to show it out on the field and we have to tackle better.”
K-State’s first action of the year is Sept. 4 in Arlington, Texas, against the Stanford Cardinal. The first home game is Saturday, Sept. 11, against the Southern Illinois Salukis.