Chris Klieman is beginning to speak confidently about Kansas State’s odds of playing Oklahoma as originally scheduled at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
During his weekly radio show on Thursday, Klieman said the Wildcats were gearing up for a Friday departure to Norman after finishing up what he described as an encouraging week of practice.
Unlike earlier in the week, when he expressed some doubt about K-State meeting the Big 12 threshold to play, he happily broke down the Sooners and explained the unique day of travel the team has lined up.
“It is quite a bit different,” Klieman said. “We are busing down, and I don’t even know how many buses we have but it’s a lot. That’s the first thing, we have got a lot of buses, and nobody is going to share a seat. It’s going to be masks the whole time going down and then when we get to the hotel hopefully we get into a rhythm.”
Klieman later said K-State had reserved six buses for the trip.
K-State normally travels to road games in Oklahoma on a chartered flight, but that won’t be the case this weekend because of budget constraints and safety protocols. The team is scheduled to travel home on a chartered flight, though.
In general, Klieman seemed more concerned about handling that travel itinerary and playing in hot temperatures than anything related to the coronavirus.
“Our guys are excited about the opportunity,” Klieman said. “We will go play hard and see what happens.”
But he did stop short of guaranteeing the Wildcats would play. Even though K-State cleared its first two testing hurdles this week, nothing will be decided until both the Wildcats and Sooners test again on Friday and receive the OK to play from Big 12 officials.
For example, when Klieman was asked if K-State’s receiving corps was going to be back at full strength against the Sooners, he did little more than shrug even though game-breaking sophomore Joshua Youngblood and others returned to practice this week and are on pace to take the field for the first time this season.
“That is an impossible question to answer,” Klieman said. “It changes every day, almost hourly.”
Both safeties that started for K-State against Arkansas State were unable to finish the game because of injuries, but Klieman said each of them is now on the mend.
Jahron McPherson is expected to return to action on Saturday and take on a leading role in the Wildcats’ secondary, and Jones has been cleared to return to practice after suffering a scary injury against the Red Wolves.
“Jahron, he missed the open week and then was back on Monday,” Klieman said. “He practiced full speed most of the week. We are confident he is going to be ready to roll.”
Though Klieman didn’t have a specific timetable for Jones’ return he advised fans to “rest assured” that Jones will be back this season.
Building experience up front
Offensive line remains a question mark for K-State, as Klieman on Thursday compared the unit to a “revolving door.”
The Wildcats are attempting to replace five seniors up front, and things didn’t go well for them against Arkansas State. K-State only rushed for 91 yards in that game.
“It’s going to take time for those guys to gel,” Klieman said.
But he thinks the group has a bright future, especially if senior center Noah Johnson elects to return for an extra year, as new NCAA rules allow him to do. Klieman said “I hope like heck” that he comes back.
“That position will be a strength after we go through some growing pains,” Klieman said.
Waiting on new uniforms
Alternate uniforms are always a hot topic for some K-State football fans, and Klieman shared an update on the fashion front on Thursday.
He said he originally planned to travel to the Nike headquarters with athletic director Gene Taylor in the spring and view some possible design changes. But that trip was canceled after the coronavirus pandemic hit. So the Wildcats won’t be debuting any new looks this season.