MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – The 2022-23 football season is officially underway for K-State. The ‘Cats opened up football practice to the media for the first time Monday.

Coach Chris Klieman held a press conference after the practice to field questions about the product on the field. While most of the team is healthy at the start of the season, noticeably absent was junior outside linebacker Khalid Duke, who missed most of last season with an ACL tear.

“We’re confident that he’s going to be set and ready to go by the first game,” Klieman said. “We are being very smart with him, coming off the injury. He missed some time for some other things. But he is going to be on target to be ready to go on September 3rd.”

Offensively, the Wildcats had to replace long-time starting quarterback Skylar Thompson heading into the off-season. Coach Klieman was able to bring in Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez, who has the most all-purpose yards in Cornhusker history.

“I think he’d tell you he’s learning every day,” Klieman said. “That’s the fun part of…you know, he was taking so many mental reps in the spring and trying to put himself in the position behind the queues and stuff of kind of watching as it goes. But, now, being able to have live action, of seeing things come at you, and understanding how Coach Klein calls things.”

Still around to take the pressure off of Martinez is a star running back Deuce Vaughn. The problem with the attention around Deuce is that opposing defenses also know how good he is.

“We’re going to move Deuce around,” Klieman said. “Everyone’s going to know where he’s at and game plan for him. So, we need to be creative in how we get him the football. Whether that’s in the backfield, whether that’s in the slot. A lot of different looks probably.”

One way to get the attention of the running back is by being good at wide receiver. Over the off-season, K-State brought in Temple passing game coordinator Thad Ward to coach the wideouts. Ward coached multiple receivers to school records in his three years with the Owls.

“He’s done a great job,” Klieman said. “Coach Ward has come in here and challenged the guys. Brought a wealth of experience himself in here. Brought some new things, new drills, and new techniques to the table. I like it because they’re responding, they’re getting great dialogue, and I can see it on the field. Because of what we know people are going to try to do to us, slow down number 22 [Deuce Vaughn], our wide receivers have to come up big and I think they will.”