K-State Spring Game

Kansas State head football coach Chris Klieman speaks with the media after spring scrimmage at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in April. Klieman and the Wildcats released their depth chart for the opener Monday.

Kansas State football provided clarity Monday with its season opener on tap later this week.

The Wildcats released their first depth chart under new head coach Chris Klieman Monday.

Ball State graduate transfer James Gilbert, who joined K-State in the spring, will get the starting nod at running back when the team takes on Nicholls at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Fellow graduate transfer Jordon Brown, who previously played at North Carolina, was listed as the No. 2 running back alongside fourth-year junior Harry Trotter, who sat out last season after transferring from Louisville.

Despite what’s depicted on the two-deep, Klieman said it’s not a guarantee Gilbert will line up in the backfield on the offense’s first snap of the season. That decision, he said, rests with offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.

“It depends what ‘Coach Mess’ has dialed up on the first play,” Klieman said during his time on the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday. “There are a number of guys who are going to play, and they all know that. We are going to play a number of guys there and give a number of guys the opportunity to carry the football. I’m not sure how it will all play out, but we’re confident in several guys at the running back spot.”

Klieman said that won’t change as the year progresses.

“We will play like that probably throughout the season,” he said. “If you look at our track record, we’ve played an awful lot of running backs and kept people fresh to get guys opportunities. That’s what we’ll do here.”

In another tight competition between a pair of senior defensive tackles, Jordan Mittie edged Joe Davies and will start beside Trey Dishon on Saturday. Though Davies won’t be in the lineup, position coach Mike Tuiasosopo said he wants to rotate often to keep his players as fresh as possible.

While Skylar Thompson is the unquestioned starter at quarterback, his backup is still to be determined. Nick Ast and John Holcombe II both had “OR” listed beside their names in what continues to be one of the most closely watched battles on the team.

The coaching staff repeatedly has emphasized they view the fullback and tight end spots as interchangeable. Following the season-ending injury to fullback Adam Harter, third-year sophomores Nick Lenners and Mason Barta are listed as co-No. 1 at the spot. (Lenners is listed at tight end on the official roster on the K-State Athletics website.) Fifth-year senior Blaise Gammon will start at tight end.

In perhaps the most surprising aspect of the depth chart, senior defensive end Reggie Walker — the Wildcats’ lone preseason All-Big 12 selection — doesn’t have a starting job locked down. Instead, it will be a game-time decision that pits him against fellow senior Kyle Ball. Sophomore Wyatt Hubert will start at the other defensive end position.

Malik Knowles isn’t listed as a starter, either. A redshirt freshman receiver expected to contend for the team lead in receptions this fall will begin the season as the backup to senior Dalton Schoen. Fourth-year junior Wykeen Gill won the other starting wideout job.

The offensively line tentatively will trot out a senior starting five in left tackle Scott Frantz, left guard Evan Curl, center Adam Holtorf, right guard Tyler Mitchell and right tackle Nick Kaltmayer. The only spot of uncertainty is left guard, where Curl has split reps with third-year sophomore Josh Rivas. Klieman said he believes Curl likely will be in the lineup come Saturday, but that’s dependent upon how practice goes this week. Regardless of who starts, Klieman said both Curl and Rivas will play versus the Colonels.

As is, the Wildcats plan to go well beyond their starting five linemen Saturday.

“We’re probably going to play six or seven guys at least upfront,” Klieman said, “maybe eight guys. ... We’d like to potentially see Noah Johnson and Christian Duffie in the game just to keep getting guys experience. But we have a number of guys who’ve played an awful lot of snaps up front.”

On special teams, redshirt freshman receiver Phillip Brooks is listed as the starter at both the kick and punt return spots. Knowles is listed as the backup punt returner while fourth-year junior defensive back (and starting corner) Walter Neil Jr. will assist Brooks on kickoffs.

Even with the release of the depth chart, Klieman cautioned things are “always fluid.” The quarterback position, he said, is “pretty simple,” because one player normally takes the lion’s share of the reps. Other position groups, such as the running backs, receivers and defensive line, substitute regularly.

It’s all about opportunities across the board.

“We want to make sure they continue to gain experience for some guys at some positions who haven’t played very much,” Klieman said. We want to see what some of these other guys — whether it’s a backup safety in Jonathan Alexander to another lineman, to a linebacker in Daniel Green — we want to see what these guys can do. There’ll be a lot of guys playing football for us on Saturday.”

K-STATE FOOTBALL DEPTH CHART

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE

Quarterback: Skylar Thompson

Running back: James Gilbert

Fullback: Nick Lenners OR Mason Barta

Wide receiver: Dalton Schoen

Wide receiver: Wykeen Gill

Tight end: Blaise Gammon

Left tackle: Scott Frantz

Left guard: Evan Curl OR Josh Rivas

Right tackle: Nick Kaltmayer

Right guard: Tyler Mitchell

Center: Adam Holtorf

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE

Quarterback: Nick Ast OR John Holcombe

Running back: Jordon Brown OR Harry Trotter

Fullback: Nick Lenners OR Mason Barta

Wide receiver: Malik Knowles

Wide receiver: Phillip Brooks OR Landry Weber

Tight end: Nick Lenners

Left tackle: Kaitori Leveston

Left guard: Evan Curl OR Josh Rivas

Right tackle: Christian Duffie

Right guard: Ben Adler

Center: Noah Johnson

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE

Defensive end: Reggie Walker OR Kyle Ball

Defensive end: Wyatt Hubert

Defensive tackle: Trey Dishon

Defensive tackle: Jordan Mittie

Middle linebacker: Elijah Sullivan

Weakside linebacker: Da’Quan Patton Cody Fletcher

Cornerback: AJ Parker

Cornerback: Walter Neil Jr.

Nickelback: Jahron McPherson

Free safety: Denzel Goolsby

Strong safety: Wayne Jones

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE

Defensive end: Reggie Walker OR Kyle Ball

Defensive end: Bronson Massie

Defensive tackle: Drew Wiley

Defensive tackle: Joe Davies

Middle linebacker: Daniel Green

Weakside linebacker: Cody Fletcher

Cornerback: Darreyl Patterson OR Lance Robinson

Cornerback: Kevion McGee OR Lance Robinson

Nickelback: Johnathan Durham

Free safety: Ross Elder

Strong safety: Jonathan Alexander

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker/kickoff: Blake Lynch (Backup: Ty Zentner)

Punter: Devin Anctil (Backup: Ty Zentner)

Kick return: Phillip Brooks and Walter Neil Jr.

Punt return: Phillip Brooks (Backup: Malik Knowles)

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