If there’s anything Kansas State is more excited about than kicking off the Chris Klieman era with a spotless 3-0 start to the season, it’s the opportunity to make it 4-0.
To the Wildcats’ chagrin, though, they have a bye week this Saturday. K-State will have to wait until Sept. 28 to visit Oklahoma State, its next game action.
In other words: K-State wants to optimize its time before kicking off Big 12 competition in a shade over a week.
Mostly, the Wildcats aren’t treating the week off like a week off. They practiced Monday through Thursday. They’re acting like they play Oklahoma State this Saturday, by watching game film and studying the way the Cowboys bolted out to a similarly impressive 3-0 record.
“Coach Klieman was talking about this (Monday),” K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson said. “We’re trying to prepare like we play Oklahoma State Saturday. (He said), ‘Don’t change any of your routine. Watch the film that you watch on whatever day and keep your same routine, then next week, we’ll do it all over again.’ That’s the best way to go about it.”
All that carried over from the policies of previous head coach Bill Snyder, a notoriously meticulous worker who seldom took time off. He wanted his teams to stay game-ready at all times, even if there wasn’t a game to get ready for that week.
Klieman, it seems, runs things similarly on bye weeks. The one difference: While Snyder would give his teams Friday off and hold practice Saturday morning, this week, Klieman is giving his players the entire weekend off.
That gives each player a chance to spend their time differently. Defensive end Wyatt Hubert and cornerback Walter Neil, two starters who missed the Mississippi State game with undisclosed injuries, likely will spend the time off recovering and recharging.
Klieman said both practiced Monday, but added that they likely wouldn’t participate in Tuesday’s contact session. He said he was “very hopeful” that both would be able to practice with contact on Wednesday and Thursday.
For other guys, like Thompson, the bye week is a chance to spend time with family. He’s planning on returning home to Independence, Missouri, to watch his little brother, Anthony, play in his seventh-grade Pop Warner league.
It’ll be Thompson’s first chance to do so. He hasn’t been able to go home in the fall, he said, since 2016, his redshirt season.
He’ll get to watch Anthony play fullback, linebacker, even quarterback — whatever the coaches want from him, Thompson said.
“I always get filled in, with my parents texting me or my mom sending me videos and that stuff,” Thompson said, “but it’s hard sometimes because he’s always up here watching me play, and I’ve never gotten a chance to go back and go watch him. So it’s going to give me an opportunity to go do that and spend some time with him. It’s important to do. I know he’ll be excited that I’ll be able to get there. I’m excited to watch him go play.”
Others, like defensive lineman Trey Dishon, said he’s planning on attending the Chiefs-Ravens game Sunday in Kansas City. Running back James Gilbert said he didn’t have any special plans — just to stay on his feet and stay refreshed.
There seemed to be a consensus, though: The weekend off is nice. It’ll pay dividends.
“That’s huge,” tight end Blaise Gammon said. “It’s been almost two months straight of just grinding training camp. There was a longer camp this year, with school starting later, and then we got right into the season. It’s obviously part of it, but it’s great when you can get two days off. Feels like a vacation, almost.”
Several K-State assistant coaches will use the weekend off to go recruiting. It’s a no-contact period, so they won’t be able to chat with any recruits, but they’ll travel around and evaluate different prospects.
Still, there’s a reason why they didn’t plan on leaving until later in the week.
“We couldn’t afford to say, ‘Hey, every coach just get out of here and start going and recruiting,’” Klieman said. “The most important thing for me is the current football team. We have to do a good job of continuing to work on fundamentals, techniques and continuing to teach our offense and defense.”
On the coaching front, too: Things are different from when K-State was preparing for its season opener against Nicholls. Coaches spent two weeks getting ready for that game, and it stands to reason they might do the same now, with two weeks before visiting Oklahoma State.
Not the case.
Klieman said it’s nice to have the bye week before conference play starts — “That’s big — you play your non-conference, you learn more about your team, and you learn more with what you have to do in certain phases of the game,” he said — but the three games the Wildcats have played have given the group lots to work on.
So that’s what the coaches will focus on, at least for now: K-State. Not Oklahoma State.
“Now that we do know a little bit about our team through three games,” Klieman said, “(It’s), ‘OK, here’s the things we have to work on. Forget who we’re playing. Here’s the things we have to get better on.’
“Whether that’s the perimeter blocking, tackling, certain aspects of special teams, whatever it may be. We have to work on that part, but then absolutely push forward and say, ‘OK, now let’s do some scouting, let’s do some scout work on our next opponent.’”