Chris Klieman wants Kansas State football players to handle expectations in a new way

At some point this summer, media members from across the Big 12 will be formally asked to rank all 16 football teams in the new-look conference. Then the league office will tabulate their votes and turn them into a preseason poll to excite fans as they turn their attention to fall Saturdays.

There is a good chance that Kansas State will top the list when this happens. At worst, the Wildcats should reside in the top three. Just about everyone, including the oddsmakers, has already tabbed Chris Klieman’s team as one of the favorites to win the conference title in 2024.

Some will take that as good news. Klieman might not be among them.

It doesn’t sound like he wants his team focused on preseason expectations, even when they signal good things for the Wildcats.

“I think we have a good football team,” Klieman said earlier this week at a Catbackers event in Salina, “But I think we’re a long ways away from being where we think we need to be to compete for a Big 12 championship.”


Klieman is happy to share a few reasons.

“We had so many guys in the spring who didn’t participate and didn’t practice,” Klieman said. “So we have got to have a great summer and a great fall camp. There are also so many unknowns of teams that we are playing. We are playing five teams that we don’t know a whole lot about. We have to do a ton of work on them. I just think we’ve got a long ways to go.”

Don’t get Klieman wrong. As stated above, he thinks the Wildcats are going to be good next season. That much should go without saying when you consider that K-State won nine games last year, including an impressive triumph over North Carolina State at the Pop-Tarts Bowl with Avery Johnson leading the way at quarterback.

Johnson is back and ready to lead the offense as a sophomore. He will be surrounded by DJ Giddens and Colorado transfer Dylan Edwards at running back. He will also have some proven weapons to rely on at wide receiver, such as Keagan Johnson and Jayce Brown.

Throw in a talented defense and an experienced coaching staff and it’s easy to see why K-State is up there with Utah as preseason favorites in the Big 12.

Klieman is well aware of how much potential exists on this roster. But nothing is ever guaranteed in college football.

K-State also had a talented team last season with three future NFL Draft picks (Ben Sinnott, Cooper Beebe, Kaitori Leveston) leading the way. And they finished the regular season with a somewhat disappointing record of 8-4, which was good for a three-way tie for fourth in the league standings.

Preseason expectations are part of what makes every year on the gridiron special.

But Klieman is happy to let fans focus on that while his team puts its collective head down and works for a strong season.

“The anticipation, the excitement and the expectations, we have to temper all those things as coaches,” Klieman said, “Because last year I think that was probably emphasized too much of what that group could do after what we did in 2022. Every team is different. Every year is different. The number one thing is you have got to stay healthy, but you have got to stay hungry, as well.”