K-State adapting to COVID-19 realities
The entire preseason has been one of adjustment for Kansas State and other teams across the country.
At first it was getting used to safety protocols, such as wearing masks, distancing and coronavirus testing. But as the first game day approaches, the more immediate concern is putting enough bodies on the field at their regular positions.
K-State on Friday listed 12 positive cases for the virus with three more tests scheduled this week before Saturday's 2:30 p.m. kickoff against Arkansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Throw in the additional players quarantined through contact tracing and it has presented a challenge.
"Not one day since we started this true practice time on Aug. 7, not one day have we had a full complement of players out there," K-State coach Chris Klieman said during Monday morning’s Big 12 coaches conference call. "And it's not like well, you're just missing a couple of freshmen.
"You're missing a key guy in the secondary, in the (offensive) line, in the wideouts, the running backs, wherever it may be. And it's not all COVID related. Some of it is true injury related."
That has led to some interesting combinations, Klieman added.
"We've hit every specialty area you can hit, but it's still difficult when you're dealing with small numbers," he said. "Right now, we don't have anywhere close to the amount of guys we started camp with.
"Whether it’s that or a defensive end learning to play d-tackle or a safety playing linebacker, a nickel back's playing corner, our punter is typically not a field-goal kicker and he’s kicking some field goals. I think you have to do all of those things to give yourself a chance in case something happens to you after one of these three testing days this week.”
The effects could well show up on game day.
"You don't want to (lower expectations), but I've seen it at practice that we have not been as sharp and as crisp as I'd like it to be at this time," Klieman said. "The continuity and consistency of play, I think may suffer a little bit.
"Everybody is going through the same thing, so you hope the guys who have enough game experience and have played an awful lot of snaps for you can rise to the top. You're going to have some guys playing for the first time that maybe haven't even taken a majority of snaps through fall camp, and all of a sudden due to a situation, they're thrust into a role these last five or six days because of a positive test or contact tracing, and they're going to make some mistakes."
Where certain positions have been hard hit, Klieman said, the Wildcats have spent more time in meetings, doing walk-throughs and explaining situations in hopes that it will translate to the field. Quarantined players also have been kept in the loop through technology.
"Thank heavens for Zoom," Klieman said. "We have those guys in every Zoom position meeting, unit meeting that they have, and they have their iPads, so they're sent practice videos and they're reviewing that."
Asked whether he'd require a minimum number of practices during the week for players to participate, Klieman chuckled.
"This year you can throw that one out the window, you really can," he said. "If a young man, because all of our positions with different teams and coaching staffs, either have been depleted or could be depleted at some point this season, it that young man can practice a day or two and get all of the meeting stuff from a mental standpoint and can help you, I don't know if that's 60 snaps, but maybe it's 20 snaps or 25 snaps.
"We tell our guys it's all hands on deck."