Kansas State University

Chris Klieman explains why K-State is changing its spring football format this year

K-State DB Duke Shelley impresses NFL scouts at Wildcats Pro Day

Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Duke Shelley impressed NFL scouts at K-State's Pro Day on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
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Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Duke Shelley impressed NFL scouts at K-State's Pro Day on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

The Kansas State football team will culminate spring practices in a new way next month.

Instead of inviting fans in for a three-hour spring game the way Bill Snyder did throughout his time as coach, Chris Klieman will debut an interactive practice that gives fans a chance to mingle with the new coaching staff and watch a short scrimmage.

Why the change?

“I haven’t done a spring game in years,” Klieman said, referring to his time at North Dakota State. “I think it has kind of gone away a little bit in college football. Some schools that have huge numbers still do it, but if you look at our injury report we don’t even have enough corners to even practice right now.”

This might not be a forever change for the Wildcats, but it is an understandable one for the time being.

Klieman says football is a violent sport, and he is always looking for ways to minimize collisions or anything else that “puts guys in harm’s way.”

“Kansas State is not on the schedule,” Klieman said. “So we have to do a great job of protecting each other.”

It’s unclear how many players are currently unable to practice, but Klieman singled out two during a news conference on Friday — receiver Isaiah Zuber and defensive back Brock Monty. Neither player will participate in spring practices.

Everyone else, it seems, is available for drills and conditioning. But maybe not a full-contact scrimmage.

“There are a number of guys that would not be involved if we were to scrimmage because of shoulders or knees, and I know that is in double digits,” Klieman said. “Spring ball has evolved so much over the last 10 years, whether that is your numbers, amount of injuries and so on and so forth. The worst thing you could have as a coach is have a guy get injured in the spring and then miss a significant amount in the fall.”

As mentioned earlier, that has made things difficult at cornerback.

“We are banged up a little bit, but the thing I tell these guys and continue to tell them is, ‘If there is two of us we will be just fine,’” cornerbacks coach Van Malone said. “We want to continue to deal with toughness. Being injured is different than being hurt, and we want our guys to understand that. Right now, some of them are injured and we are going to respect that, but we will understand how to play through pain, and we’ll understand how to tough it up sometimes. I think the guys who are able to be out there have done a good job.”

The Wildcats are also low on numbers at various positions, particularly running back where Ball State graduate transfer James Gilbert is the only scholarship player.

Still, K-State players have shown good energy in their first two spring practices.

“I’m excited for the guys,” Klieman said. “They have been phenomenal. The relationships have been built quickly with myself and all the staff. I think the guys are really eager to implement the changes, offensively and defensively.”

Klieman hopes that enthusiasm shows up at K-State’s Spring Showcase and then carries over to its first game next season. The showcase kicks off at 1 p.m. April 13. Tickets are $5.

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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.

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