May 24, 2024

Chris Klieman eager to see what Conor Riley can do calling plays

Kansas State Wildcats Football

Kansas State Offensive Line Coach Conor Riley glances at the scoreboard during the second quarter against Iowa State Saturday October 16, 2021 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Kansas State will square off with NC State in the Pop Tarts Bowl tonight, and Coach Chris Klieman plans on keeping a close eye on the offense.

After all, the Wildcats will be operating under Interim Offensive Coordinator Conor Riley, who Klieman promoted from Offensive Line Coach after Collin Klein took the same position at Texas A&M. Klieman has a ton of history with Riley, which dates back to his days of leading North Dakota State. Riley even followed Klieman to Manhattan when he accepted the Kansas State job. So there’s no denying the trust and chemistry is there between the two.

Up to this point Riley has done a marvelous job leading the Wildcats’ big boys up front. As a matter of fact Kansas State was one of 12 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which is annually given to the nation’s best offensive line. Riley even molded former three-star prospect Cooper Beebe into a first-team, All-American.

Klieman is always raving about Riley’s work with the offensive line, and feels the Omaha native is ready for the spotlight against one of the best teams in the ACC. The fifth-year coach just wants Riley to spread his wings and fly as a play-caller tonight.

“I have been with Riley since 2012, we were assistants together at North Dakota State, and brought him here in 2018, so I have been a little over a decade with this guy,” Klieman said. “I think he is the best offensive line coach in the country, and he earned the right to have that title for this game and to be out in front of the guys.”

NC State (9-3) is on a five-game winning streak, and have a lot of momentum heading into this matchup. Not to mention the Wolfpack is No. 26 nationally in total defense, including 14th against the run. There’s no denying Riley will have his work cut out for him.

Still, Kansas State (8-4) has some weapons on offense for Riley to operate with, despite the loss of starting quarterback Will Howard, All-American tight end Ben Sinnott, backup running back Treshaun Ward and veteran wideout Phillip Brooks.

Avery Johnson will get his first career start at quarterback, and Klieman anticipates Riley will unleash his talents on NC State’s defense. Johnson has breathtaking mobility, and has 1,000-yard rusher D.J. Giddens in the backfield to hand the ball off to. Everyone is rallying behind Riley, and Klieman expects him to deliver on the gridiron.

“I am excited about what he is going to bring, and I know the players are excited,” he said. “When you see the amount of six-year guys that came back, they were all on the O-line, so that tells you everything you need to know about Conor, and so excited for his opportunity.”

What’s going to help Riley is the unknown. NC State Coach Dave Doeren doesn’t really know what to expect scheme-wise, and Riley needs to use that to his advantage. The Wildcats are seeking to win at least nine games for a second-straight season, and build momentum for 2024. It just so happens that the Wolfpack are standing in the Wildcats’ way, so something has to give.