There’s no indication Scott Frantz won’t play Saturday. But there’s no evidence to the contrary, either.
Frantz, a senior offensive lineman for Kansas State, has been a mainstay in the lineup the past three seasons. Every game the last three years, plus last week’s opener versus Nicholls — 39 contests in all — he’s started at left tackle for the Wildcats. But in the middle of the first half against the Colonels, he left with an undisclosed injury.
He did, however, return for K-State’s opening possession of the second half, with the hosts going on to crush Nicholls 49-14.
Offensive line coach Conor Riley told reporters Wednesday that while Frantz is “doing well,” the injury isn’t fully healed. Because of that, the offensive line has altered its first-team reps during this week’s practices.
When Frantz went down last week, K-State reshuffled the line, moving starting right tackle Nick Kaltmayer to the left side to replace Frantz. Starting right guard Tyler Mitchell went to right tackle. Evan Curl, who started at left guard, swapped to right guard to fill Mitchell’s spot.
During his time at right tackle, Mitchell was “really impressive,” Riley said. The plan for Mitchell always has centered on him seeing time at right tackle. And that opportunity came sooner than expected.
“I thought he stepped in extremely, extremely well,” Riley said. “He’s had to take some more reps there this week because of the lingering (injury) Scott has. But he’s a senior, he’s a great leader and I would expect nothing less from that young man.”
Senior center Adam Holtorf said the unit didn’t miss a beat when Frantz exited.
“We practice things like that because we get so many reps in camp with the double-rep system,” he said. “We’ve worked interchanging those guys, so when Scott went down, we were able to pick up without losing much of a step.”
For Curl, last week was a learning experience: It was the first start of the fifth-year senior’s K-State career. Riley said he couldn’t have been more pleased with Curl’s performance.
“I thought Evan did well. I thought he played extremely well,” Riley said. “Sometimes it’s tough (when) you get into the flow of things.”
Last Friday, Riley said he sat down with Curl and the player he was battling for the starting left guard position, Josh Rivas. At that time, the plan was for Curl to start the game and for Rivas to sub in for the third offensive series of the first half. By the time Rivas entered, the Wildcats already led 14-0.
That took some of the pressure off.
“Boy, it was pretty nice when Josh got in there that day. So I was very pleased for him,” said Riley, echoing the compliments heaped upon Rivas by head coach Chris Klieman during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference.
One day later, Klieman continued to laud the group up front.
“We played really well (when) you rush for as many yards as we did and protect the quarterback like we did,” Klieman said, referring to the team’s 361 rushing yards (the most in an opener for K-State since 1981) and not allowing Nicholls to record a single sack. “A number of guys played. That was the other thing we were pleased with: to get as many guys in the game that we could, because we need experience behind the starters that we have. I thought that they played at a really high level, played with great energy and did a really good job of communicating.”
Holtorf didn’t dispute that assessment, noting that he felt the unit “did a good job of being physical and coming off the ball.”
But he still sees aspects the line can fine tune heading into Saturday’s game against Bowling Green.
“I think our technique could improve,” he said, “but being physical and bringing the fight to (Nicholls) is something we all did well.”