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Building on Triumph and Shaping a New Era at Kansas State

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

After an impressive season that saw Head Coach Chris Klieman guide the Kansas State University Wildcats to a Big 12 Championship and a New Year's Six bowl appearance, the team enters the preseason with a blend of optimism and high expectations. However, the question looms: Did Klieman's success last year provide a solid foundation for continued growth, or was it primarily a result of outstanding performances by players like Deuce Vaughn and second-string quarterback Will Howard, combined with favorable circumstances in a down overall league?

Since joining Kansas State, Chris Klieman has steadily made his mark, amassing a commendable record of 30-20 (20-16 Big 12) over four seasons. However, it was the remarkable achievements of last year that truly showcased Klieman's coaching prowess. Leading the Wildcats to a memorable 10-4 season, including a victory in the Big 12 Championship Game and a prestigious Sugar Bowl appearance, Klieman demonstrated his ability to elevate the team's performance to new heights.

In addition to the coaching prowess of Klieman, two key figures for the Wildcats help lead them to the Big 12 Championship, Deuce Vaughn and Will Howard, played above expectations.

Deuce Vaughn's instrumental role in Kansas State's success in running and receiving had a great impact on the team extending beyond mere numbers, although his school records for receptions (116) and receiving yards (1,280), as well as his rank as one of the leaders at K-State in career rushing yards (3,604), rushing attempts (651), 100-yard rushing games (21) by a running back are impressive. Vaughn's versatility and productivity have earned him accolades, ranking among the top in numerous career statistical categories. He showcased his exceptional skill set and invaluable contributions to the Wildcats' offense, leading to his being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

While Will Howard accepted his role as a backup quarterback until starting quarterback Adrian Martinez suffered an injury, that is when the Wildcats turned to a second-string signal-caller. Howard's emergence as a leader in Martinez's absence cannot be overlooked. Overcoming challenges, he showcased resilience and growth, demonstrating his potential as a prominent figure in the Wildcats' future. Howard's ability to lead the team and make crucial plays ensured the team's success and added to the overall depth of their offensive arsenal. His return this year is seen with much anticipation and excitement as fans look forward to continuing to see Howard's leadership and ability on the field.

The most exciting and significant news for the Kansas State Wildcats and the upcoming season is that the entire offensive line will return for the 2023 season, including Hadley Panzer, right guard; Cooper Beebe, left guard; Christian Duffie, right tackle; Hayden Gillum, center; and KT Leveston, left tackle. With the return of all offensive linemen, the Wildcats will see the return of additional key pieces on defense and special teams, solidifying the foundation for sustained success bolstered by the return of nine players who will utilize an extra year of eligibility, adding stability and depth to both offense and special teams giving the Wildcats a reason for excitement and anticipation.

Looking ahead, will this begin a new era of dominance in a new Big 12? The Kansas State Wildcats embark on the new season with momentum and determination. Head Coach Chris Klieman's coaching acumen, combined with the return of experienced seniors, will provide stability and leadership. With an intact roster and the potential to continue building on their triumphs, Kansas State is well-positioned to defend its Big 12 Championship.



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