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Kansas State place kicker Taiten Winkel (35) reacts after missing an extra point in last month’s game against Iowa State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Head coach Chris Klieman announced Tuesday that Winkel had left the program after suffering an injury. Winkel plans to remain at K-State to continue pursuing his degree.

Taiten Winkel was Kansas State’s primary placekicker for the first seven games of the 2021 season. Now, he’s no longer part of the Wildcats’ program.

Head coach Chris Klieman announced Tuesday that Winkel left of his own accord.

“Taiten decided to hang it up,” Klieman said. “He had an injury and didn’t know if he could come back from that and decided to step aside and focus on his academics. Tremendous amount of respect for Taiten and wish him nothing but the best.”

Klieman stressed that Winkel’s departure had nothing to do with an off-field or disciplinary issue.

“He had an injury and didn’t think he was going to be healthy enough to finish it out,” Klieman said, “and wants to get his degree. So tremendous amount of respect for Taiten.”

Winkel served as K-State’s lone kicker during the first seven games, a period in which he made seven of his nine field goal attempts and 22 of his 23 extra-point tries.

But he didn’t appear in the Wildcats’ most recent contests: wins versus TCU and Kansas.

Following the victory over the Horned Frogs, Klieman said Winkel had been bothered by “a lower extremity injury” that kept him from playing.

“He’s just struggled a little bit with trying to get healthy,” Klieman said.

That opened the door for freshman Chris Tennant. He’s gone 1-for-2 on his field goal attempts, though last week’s miss from 24 yards hit the right upright. He’s 9-for-9 on extra-point attempts through two games.

“Chris has continued to take half of the reps all season long,” Klieman said, “because we always thought it was an ongoing battle.”

With Winkel gone, senior Ty Zentner now will split the field goal reps with Tennant at practice.

“He may be an option on gameday,” Klieman said of Zentner, K-State’s starting punter and kickoff man. “We just had taken that off his plate. He was just kicking off and punting. Now he becomes a field goal kicker as well. So you’ve got another senior who’s a reliable guy. The moment won’t get to him, so he just takes more of those reps.”