Why Chris Klieman expects ‘an awful lot’ of Kansas State freshmen to play this season

Don’t ask Chris Klieman any questions about how many Kansas State football players may sit out the upcoming season with a redshirt.

He doesn’t have that answer yet. And it might be a few weeks before he comes to a decision.

“We haven’t talked to anybody yet to say, ‘Hey, you are going to redshirt,’” Klieman said. “There are probably some names on the (offensive) line and the (defensive) line that need that year of development, but there are a lot of positions where we are probably going to need to play them because of the depth and us learning more about guys.”

To that end, the Wildcats have a personnel strategy for their first game of the season that they haven’t used before. When they host Southeast Missouri State at 6 p.m. on Saturday inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium, they plan to use everyone who is talented enough to play.

Expect a crowded participation report in the final box score.

“We have a number of young players that we feel are getting better and just need those game experience reps,” Klieman said. “I think we will play an awful lot of guys, partly because of injury and partly because we want to find out more about our guys, especially on special teams.”

K-State listed a dozen freshmen on its depth chart leading into Game 1. That is an unusually high number for the Wildcats, who have traditionally tried to redshirt many of their youngest players in an effort to save talent and experience for future rosters.

But Klieman is no longer thinking redshirt first.

There are several reasons why his thinking has changed “quite a bit” from when he first arrived in Manhattan.

“Just because of roster management, it has to,” Klieman. “There weren’t as many people coming and going in college football. If they are mature enough and physical enough to play them early, then you probably have to play them early. (It’s) not that they would leave as much as — this is a physical game, and what happens when you don’t play that physical freshman who could have played and then his redshirt-freshman year he has a bad injury?

“You could have played him and now he’s two years behind the game. I think a lot of coaches are going into that. Kids are more physically ready to play coming out of high school, but it is still the mental part of it, making sure they know what your team is doing schematically.”

K-State fans will want to keep an eye out for a select group of freshmen that Klieman has praised throughout training camp.

Freshman linebacker Asa Newsom was mentioned several times on Tuesday as a potential impact player even though he is fresh out of high school from Waverly, Iowa.

Maize product Avery Johnson has also played well enough during his brief time on campus to potentially serve as team’s backup quarterback behind Will Howard.

Garrett Oakley and Brayden Loftin could both see work at tight end, Jack Fabris could get a look at safety and a handful more young contributors could be used on special teams.

Remember, college football players are allowed to redshirt as long as they don’t play in more than four games. There is no harm in using a boatload of freshmen against an FCS opponent.

It seems like Klieman won’t hesitate.

“With the long haul of the season,” Klieman said, “you are going to need all of them.”