Twelve years have passed since Jason Ray last played in a football game against Kansas State, but it doesn’t feel that way to him.
“One of my best memories is from my senior year leaving Manhattan,” Ray said. “We were about to go play Kansas that next (week) and everyone was cheering for us to go beat Kansas. I thought that was unbelievable as a senior walking off that field.”
Ray was a receiver at Missouri back then. The year was 2007 and it was a wild one for both the Tigers and the Jayhawks. Missouri defeated K-State to improve to 10-1 on the same day KU beat Iowa State to start 11-0.
They met a week later in a high-stakes game at Arrowhead Stadium. Much to the delight of K-State football fans, Ray and his Tigers beat Kansas to win the Big 12 North.
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Now, Ray is set to help the Wildcats in a more direct way as the team’s new receivers coach after helping Chris Klieman guide North Dakota State to a FCS championship this past season.
“It’s an easy recruiting sell,” Ray said. “Manhattan is a great community in the Big 12 with great facilities and resources. My family and I are both ready to get there and get rolling.”
That excitement is shared by the three other NDSU assistants who are following Klieman to K-State.
Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham is eager to transition his system into the Big 12, offensive line coach Conor Riley is ready to help develop blockers and safeties coach Joe Klanderman is looking forward to boosting K-State’s secondary.
Most of all, they are glad to stay together on a new staff.
“Coach Klieman has done a great job of hiring people here who really understand that it is more about the people and the process than it is about winning,” Messingham said. “You let the winning somewhat take care of itself if you get the right people in place and understand that the process is the key.”
All four assistants have different coaching styles, but they should have no problem meshing with the culture already established at K-State.
Messingham intends to use a more diverse version of the run-heavy offense the Wildcats have used in previous years.
Klanderman will preach fundamentals and effort with his defensive backs.
“I feel like you are what you do,” Klanderman said. “We don’t pretend to be something that we’re not. We try to emphasize the things we are good at and we try to hide the things we are not as good at. As a result, we have success.”
For Ray, it’s all about toughness and savvy when it comes to receivers.
“I need guys who can make plays,” Ray said. “You need to be tough enough to catch a pass across the middle, to block on the perimeter and to prepare.”
K-State’s offensive line was usually a strength under former coach Bill Snyder. Riley, who respectfully declined to speak with reporters after North Dakota State won the FCS championship on Saturday, will try and make it better.
“He is such a good teacher,” Messingham said. “Not only are our offensive linemen physical, but they really understand the game. That is one thing he does probably better than anyone I have been around.”
They also bring new recruiting territories with them. Messingham likes to find talent in Missouri, Iowa and Florida. Klanderman has spent considerable time in Chicago. Ray grew up in Oklahoma and should help the Wildcats recruit in that state. He helped Oklahoma State land Tyreek Hill when he worked with the Cowboys.
K-State coaches began sharing ideas and planning for the future on Monday when they had their first staff meeting with Klieman.
Time will tell what they can accomplish together. But their familiarity with each other and K-State should help make for a smooth transition.