For the most part Kansas State was an unknown commodity before the start of the 2019 season
Many predicted the Wildcats would finish towards the bottom of the Big 12 because the program was in transition. Chris Klieman was replacing the legendary Bill Snyder, Kansas State was coming off a 5-7 campaign and the team went winless against ranked opponent for four-straight seasons.
However, Wyatt Hubert noticed the change in his teammates the moment Kleiman landed on campus. Klieman along with his assistants from North Dakota State quickly established toughness back into a team that been lacking it for a few years. Klieman didn’t try to change the culture much from Snyder’s, but his foundation was instantly noticeable.
Hubert himself excelled under Kleiman’s guidance. The defensive end earned All-Big 12 honors and tied for second in the league in sacks, including two apiece against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech this past season. He became an enforcer off the edge and is now considered the heart and soul of the Wildcats’ defense.
The entire team rallied behind Klieman, played with a chip on their shoulder and Hubert fed off being the underdog.
“It was definitely a crazy ride, there was a lot of doubt with Coach Kleiman and his staff at the beginning of the year,” Hubert said. “A lot of people overlooked us, but we knew as long as we would buy into Coach Klieman’s program and keep believing everyday, the results will come.”
Kansas State won eight games during the regular season for the first time since 2016 and was the only Big 12 team to beat Oklahoma. As a matter of fact the Wildcats tied for third in the final conference standings. Now the team has momentum heading into the spring and Hubert couldn’t be more happier for Klieman.
“Being a first-year coach going from FCS to FBS is a big transition, and there’s a lot of naysayers,” he said. “But Coach Klieman is a winner, he knows how to win no matter what.”
Quarterback Skylar Thompson returns after scoring 37 total touchdowns the past two seasons. The Wildcats’ defense allowed a Big 12-best, 31 total touchdowns and finished No. 2 against the pass and points allowed. Now Hubert will be anchoring the front seven and ball-hawking corner A.J. Paker will hold down the secondary.
Special Teams will again be a team strength with the return of placekicker Blake Lynch, who made 19 of his 21 field goal attempts. Not to mention Joshua Youngblood had a spectacular true freshman season and earned All-Big 12 as a return specialist.
The buzz is generating back in Manhattan and everyone is on board with Kleiman. With the departure of several seniors from the 2019 team, the responsibility now falls on Hubert’s shoulders to be a general and he’s embracing the leadership role. After all, the Topeka native has the experience and production.
Hubert admired former teammate Denzel Goolsby for his work ethic, consistency and the way he carried himself on and off the field. It’s the mentality the six-foot-three, 258-pound captain hopes to instill in the rest of his teammates by the fall.
Although Klieman didn’t lure in a highly rated class last week, he still signed 27 recruits. Sometimes coaches prefer quantity over quality and depth is always a priority when it comes to injuries. It also gives coaches the time to mold their players or even switch them to a different position.
In hindsight Klieman has Kansas State headed in the right direction and primed to take that next step. He didn’t win four National Championships with the Bison by accident. Which is why the College Football world will be waiting to see what Klieman can do for an encore.