First impressions: You know as well as I do that they can be misleading.
But they can also be right on the money. I sure hope my first impressions of Chris Klieman as the K-State football coach are. Because that first impression is entirely positive.
You already know the background: Coach Klieman is taking the place of Bill Snyder, the arcitect of the greatest turnaround in the history of college football.
In all the off-the-field stuff, The New Man Himself has come across as one of us. He seems like a K-State guy — hard-working, straight-ahead, not at all full of himself. Right from the beginning, that felt right. Although there have been some major changes in matters related to public relations, it felt like Coach Klieman was cut from the same cloth as The Great Man Himself.
The question, of course, was how all of that would translate to the football field. Ron Prince, after all, seemed like a great fit here at the outset, too. He came from Junction City, and he was obviously smart and confident and well-grounded in football.
I remember in Coach Prince’s first game as the head coach, he took the ball first, and on the first play from scrimmage tried throwing a long bomb to Yamon Figurs. I immediately thought, “Oh my God, we’ve hired a marketing guy.”
He wanted to make a statement. It was about the imagery of that moment. My heart sank.
The pass was intercepted.
What did Coach Klieman call? Off-tackle to the right. It went for 3 yards. It wasn’t flashy. It wasn’t a “statement.” It was a football play. It was exactly what Bill Snyder would have done.
In fact, the way the team played Saturday was reminiscent of the teams The Great Man trotted out in the late 90s and early 2000s. It hummed with efficiency, pounding way with the running game, making big passing plays when necessary, taking advantage of mistakes on defense.
All of that came against a second-tier team, and so, as Coach Klieman himself said, there’s no point falling in love yet. It was just one football game.
But as a first impression? It appears we have a man of substance.