Kansas State University

Five important things K-State football coach Chris Klieman said on signing day

Courtney Messingham explains what he likes about K-State’s offense

Courtney Messingham explains what he likes about K-State's offense
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Courtney Messingham explains what he likes about K-State's offense

Chris Klieman’s inaugural football recruiting class at Kansas State features 23 players from 12 different states. He added 16 of them to roster last month and signed seven more on Wednesday.

The class ranks 65th nationally and eighth in the Big 12, according to Rivals.

He didn’t have much time to recruit after being hired in December and splitting time between K-State and North Dakota State as he guided his old team to a FCS national championship, but he managed to address roster needs and sign a few potential future difference-makers.

Here are the five most important things he had to say during his signing day news conference Wednesday:

Steal of the class

Klieman has high expectations for some of his recruits, and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Take the following quote, for example.

“I think Joshua Youngblood is kind of the steal of the class,” Klieman said. “This kid is an electric football player.”

K-State fans never heard statements like that under former coach Bill Snyder, who preferred not to make projections about his recruits. It’s a new age in Manhattan, and people will know to keep an eye on Youngblood when he arrives on campus.

An athletic playmaker from Tampa, Fla., Youngblood spent most of his time at quarterback in high school but projects to play receiver for the Wildcats. Well, that and maybe a few other positions.

Youngblood rushed for 2,221 yards and 26 touchdowns in high school and caught 22 passes for 419 yards. He also returned kicks and threw more than 1,000 yards. No wonder he had 44 scholarship offers, according to his Rivals page.

He could do a little bit of everything in college.

“I see Josh getting the football in his hands, however that is,” Klieman said. “Receiver, running back returns … Watch his highlight film. He is a special talent.”

Casting a wide recruiting net

The Wildcats signed players from some unfamiliar regions on Wednesday.

Youngblood is the first high school senior from Florida to sign with the Wildcats since 2009. Long Beach, Calif. defensive back Kenyon Reed spurned nearby UCLA to sign with K-State. Matthew Pola-Mao announced his intentions to play in Manhattan from his high school in Chandler, Ariz.

Klieman has stated that he wants to own a local footprint and sign players from Kansas City and the Sunflower State every year. But K-State’s efforts won’t stop there.

“I think you have to nationally recruit,” Klieman said. “Kansas State has a national name, it has a national brand, so for us to be able to go get some kids in other areas, whether it be California or Arizona or South Carolina is important.”

To that end, Klieman said he has excellent recruiting connections in the Tampa area and hired defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo specifically for his recruiting ties on the West Coast.

Youth movement at running back

The Wildcats have no choice but to play newcomers at running back next season. Following the departures of Alex Barnes, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack, K-State loaded up on ball-carriers this recruiting cycle.

The new running backs are incoming freshmen Joe Ervin, Thomas Grayson and Clyde Price, as well as Ball State graduate transfer James Gilbert.

“It was a huge question mark,” Klieman said. “When we were hired there wasn’t anyone on scholarship. So we went out and (recruited that position). Competition is always big. Everyone has the opportunity to play early. If you watch our system, we are going to play with two and three backs at times. We need a lot of those type of guys. Plus, they have the ability to play on special teams and catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Klieman says Grayson brings speed and versatility to the roster, while Price adds power.

He said he feels much better about the position now than when he arrived in Manhattan.

Tight end dilemma

Konner Fox is the only tight end K-State signed to its latest recruiting class. Klieman wishes he could have added more, but he was unable to find the type of tight ends that fit his offense on short notice.

Klieman said he prefers tight ends to be “glorified offensive tackles,” but most high school tight ends he came across emphasized catching passes over blocking.

K-State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham has said he wants K-State tight ends to do both. For now, Klieman says he will try to develop tight ends from within the Wildcats’ current roster.

Speed kills

Of all the things Klieman emphasized on the recruiting trail leading up to traditional signing day, he wanted to sign players with speed more than anything else.

He thinks the Wildcats accomplished that goal with some of their newest additions.

“We have a lot of speed in this class,” Klieman said. “That is something we went out and tried to hit, getting those fast kids at running back and receiver or defensive back, because they can play a lot of different things and be really versatile.”

K-State football signings

Player, Position, Height, Weight, Previous school (Hometown)

Joshua Youngblood, WR, 5-11, 170, Brkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)*

Kenny Givens, DT, 6-4, 272, Hubbard (Chicago)*

Thomas Grayson, RB, 6-0, 190, Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.)*

Clyde Price, RB, 6-1, 220, North Kansas City (Kansas City, Mo.)*

Kenyon Reed, DB, 6-0, 165, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)*

Matthew Pola-Mao, DT, 6-3, 309, Chandler (Chandler, Ariz.)*

Tyrone Lewis, DB, 6-0, 190, Hammond (Hammond, La.)*

Cooper Beebe, OL, 6-3, 329, Piper (Kansas City, Kan.)

Jax Dineen, FB, 5-11, 230, Free State (Lawrence)

Khalid Duke, LB, 6-4, 225, Riverside Military Academy (Gainesville, Ga.)

Joe Ervin, RB, 5-10, 190, South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.)

Konner Fox, TE, 6-5, 225, Reagan (San Antonio)

Keenan Garber, WR, 6-0, 175, Free State (Lawrence)

James Gilbert, RB, 5-9, 198, Ball State (Indianapolis)

Marcus Hayes, DB, 6-0, 192, New Mexico (Rockford, Ill.)

Chris Herron, QB, 6-1, 192, Langham Creek (Houston, Texas)

William Jones, DB, 5-11, 170, Summit (Mansfield, Texas)

Jaren Lewis, QB, 6-3, 215, Battle (Columbia, Mo.)

Taylor Poitier, OL, 6-3, 258, Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission)

Trevor Stange, OL, 6-3, 272, Coppell (Coppell, Texas)

Logan Wilson, DB, 5-11, 165, Bishop Dunne (Dallas)

Ty Zentner, K, 6-2, 200, Butler CC (Tecumseh, Kan.)

*Signed on Wednesday

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.