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Kansas State: Real Big 12 Championship Contender

The Kansas State Wildcats had a good 2023 season by winning the Pop-Tarts Bowl, but the Wildcats came up short of their success in 2022 when they won the Big 12 and went to the Sugar Bowl. During the Chris Klieman era in Manhattan, Kansas, the Wildcats have not had a spring football game, leaving some unanswered questions. Even with those missing answers to the public eye the Kansas State Wildcats will be a force in the new look Big 12.

Kansas State Coach Chris Klieman

The multi-time national champion head coach at North Dakota State has a winning pedigree that has continued since being hired by Kansas State in 2019. In the last two seasons, the Wildcats have posted a 19-8 overall record, and 13-6 in conference play. A coach that wins like Klieman will have his teams in contention year in and out.

Avery Johnson

The Maize, Kansas product was the second highest-rated quarterback commit in Kansas State history just behind Josh Freeman. Avery got some playing time his freshman season backing up Will Howard, who transferred to Ohio State this off-season, opening the door for the starting job. During his freshman campaign, everyone got to see how electric of a running threat Avery was rushing for 296 yards and seven touchdowns, including five touchdowns in the game at Texas Tech. Johnson also had 479 passing yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Johnson started the Pop-Tarts Bowl and earned MVP honors against a solid North Carolina State defense.

With a new offensive coordinator Matt Wells having a good history of developing quarterbacks there is no reason to believe Johnson won't keep developing as expected this off-season. Avery Johnson will quickly become one of the faces of the new Big 12.


The defense lost one of the biggest leaders this off-season with linebacker Daniel Green graduating. A lot of players saw playing time in 2023 due to the number of injuries in the linebacking group. That experience will help the linebacking corps to be the leaders of the defense. The group is led by Austin Moore who finished 2023 with 63 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. The linebackers on this team will have to be very active to help out a defense that will be filling some holes that were lost from graduation and the transfer portal.

Plenty of Unknowns

The biggest unknowns for this team will be in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The offensive line has lost a lot of experience. Guys like Carver Willis, Taylor Portier, and Hadley Panzer have seen playing time throughout their careers and will tasked with filling the shoes of a guy like Cooper Beebe.

The defensive line was undersized last year, and it appears they will be undersized in 2024 as well, especially with Jevon Banks entering the transfer portal. They will be very athletic on the defensive line and Defensive Coordinator Joe Klanderman has the schemes to put these guys in the right position to make plays.

Even with some of the unknowns Kansas State should be right in the thick of the Big 12 Championship race. The Wildcats' schedule is favorable, and they have a coaching staff that is experienced and has won championships at both the FCS and FBS levels.


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