Offensive playmakers excited after first practice
By: D. Scott Fritchen
The transition from Collin Klein as full-time offensive coordinator was felt during Kansas State’s first spring training on Tuesday morning. Just two months after Klein’s stellar debut as an interim point guard, they helped the Wildcats reach their best score of the 2021 season in a 42-20 victory over LSU in the TaxAct Texas Bowl, the Returning players continue to notice a dramatic difference in attack.
“The Tempo,” K-State wide receiver Kade Warner noted. “Today we did a lot of huddle steps, a lot of rapids on the ball with consistent movement, six games in a row with tempo, stuff like that. It’s just changing the pace and trying to get more games per game.
“The more games, the more offense, you know?”
Count the senior wide receiver Phillip Brookswho led the team with 543 receiving yards last season, among proponents of that philosophy as well.
“(Klein) likes to send the ball to his playmakers,” Brooks said. “That’s what I like. We try to attack the defense rather than trying to regulate the temperature and control the ball. I like his aggressive approach to the game.
“We normally controlled the pace of the game and huddled. Now we’re going. It’s going to benefit us. The bowling game was a real game-changer. Our offense set the tone and we continued to attack the defence. ”
— K-State Soccer (@KStateFB) March 9, 2022
Klein, entering his tenure as the only offensive player for the first time in his career, led the K-State offense to its third-highest rushing total in bowl history and his 442 total yards have marked the second best production last season and fifth in K-State bowl history.
K State Head Coach Chris Klieman indicated that the offense operation was a product of Klein’s organization in preparing the offense to face LSU.
“It helped (Klein) not only with the game, but the preparation was so important for him, to be in front of all of us leading for three weeks,” Klieman said. “He was in the lead to lead everyone and put the training plans and the game plan together. He relies on everyone in attack and does a really good job of getting input from others and coming up with an idea. collective and saying, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.'”
This also carries over to meeting rooms and the training ground.
“We’re much more advanced in setting up on offense, much more advanced than we’ve been in the past,” Klieman said. “Guys ran with confidence and made plays and had excitement.”
K-State fires three pass catchers who recorded at least 400 receiving yards last season — Brooks (543), Consensus All-American running back Deuce Vaughn (468) and senior Malik Knowles (441), while Warner finished with 166 yards and tight end Samy Wheeler with 151 yards.
Wildcats will spend their first spring under Klieman without a star quarterback Skylar Thompsonwho ended his career as one of the most esteemed flaggers in school history.
Quarterback transfer Adrian Martinez arrived after setting 16 records in Nebraska but will go without direct contact in the spring while recovering from offseason surgery to his throwing shoulder. It should start launching in April or May.
However, K-State has experienced juniors Will Howard with junior Jaren Lewis and freshman in red shirt Jake Rubley. Klieman and Klein, who also serve as the quarterbacks coach, will rely on the three for growth and consistency in exploiting the new, aggressive and paced offense.
“I’m excited about these guys,” Klieman said. “Will is even bigger and stronger. Will is probably 245 (pounds) and just needs to keep doing reps, and he’ll be running those reps this spring. Jaren has a lot more experience and is better. Jake Rubley we are thrilled, and we really need to push Jake this spring to give him opportunities and see his growth and development. Adrian is learning and doing everything he can.”
Howard passed for 332 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and he added 184 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Howard has apparently already taken a leap in his improvement and could do even more when the Wildcats hold their final practice on April 16.
“(Howard) is just more confident throwing the ball,” Klieman said. “He understands our offense so well and Coach Klein is doing a phenomenal job with him. I was at the quarters meeting this morning. He’s so sharp and confident in what he’s doing. Same with Jaren. They know so well what we do Now is about getting the right read and being decisive and being confident and pulling the trigger and rolling.
“I saw some really good throws he made today and some sewing routes to Phillip that got us all excited because it was like, ‘We saw this and now it’s about consistency .’ He just has to gain confidence and consistency so that it gets away from him.”
Brooks was happy with his relationship with Howard during the first practice.
“He had a good first day today,” Brooks said. “He was throwing it well.”
Meanwhile, Klieman, at his first spring press conference, revealed one of the biggest developments to watch as we approach next fall: Senior Jax Dineena 5-foot-10, 253-pound Lawrence native, goes from running back to running back.
“We made the big change to put Jax Dineen to the running back,” Klieman said. “That’s probably the big deal. He’ll play a fullback, but if you noticed in the bowl game he played a real running back for us. He definitely gives us a different dimension in directing football. He has good hands and will be able to protect.”
Klieman called 6-foot, 171-pound redshirt freshman wide receiver RJ Garcia II “very talented” and indicated that he was doing very well for the Wildcats.
“He made some sensational plays today in training,” Klieman said.
After spending the majority of last season battling a significant injury at the end of the 2020 campaign, he looks senior at 6ft 4in and 225lbs Chabastin Taylor could finally be healthy enough to contribute next fall.
“I am delighted to see this spring how Chabastin Taylor done,” Klieman said. “I think he’s finally healthy. Unfortunately for C-Bass, he just wasn’t healthy all fall. His injury happened in December 2020. It’s been a little over a year now. I’m excited for C-Bass.”
K-State ranked eighth in the Big 12 in offense (27.5) and ninth in total offense (361.9) — numbers that could improve in the fall.
The Wildcats are now making progress towards that goal.
“We’re going a lot faster,” Brooks said. “It’s something you have to get used to, but I like where it is. I like the idea behind it. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to, but it’s going to work for us.
“It’s going to be a big change. Since I’ve been here we were a run-first team and now we’re becoming more balanced. We have playmakers in the reception room. The idea of getting us, the ball is good for me, Malik and Kade. I’m delighted with how it’s going to go.