FARGO — The hugs were common and the memories were constant for Chris Klieman last week when he returned to Fargo for Carson Wentz’s AO1 Foundation charity softball game. The task for the new Kansas State head football coach these days is to recruit players like Wentz, Joe Haeg, Chris Board, Kyle Emanuel and Nick DeLuca — players he coached at North Dakota State — to Manhattan, Kan.
It’s a different world at the Division I FBS level. Then again, it isn’t.
“There was this misnomer that the FCS doesn’t recruit as hard as the FBS,” Klieman said. “That’s not true. They’re recruiting 24-7 at any school in the FCS just like the FBS is.”
Certainly, there are differences. Recruiting at the FBS level is just bigger, both in the personnel that the Wildcats are able to employ and the ground they’re able to cover.
Since getting the job, Klieman has done home visits in Louisiana and major cities in Texas like Dallas and Houston. That was a first for him.
California is a focus because of the number of Kansas State alumni in the state. The Dallas and Houston areas are also stocked with Wildcats alums. Moreover, Klieman hired three assistant coaches who have proven recruiting ties to Texas.
What hasn’t changed is recruiting in the Chicago area, a territory defensive backs coach Joe Klanderman did at NDSU and now at K-State. Iowa is still a focus thanks to the ties of Klieman and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham. Both grew up in Waterloo, Iowa.
The stretch of north central Florida that brought players like Board, Bruce Anderson, Tre Dempsey and Connor Wentz to NDSU will continue. The Wildcats recently got a commitment from highly regarded receiver in Florida.
Like when he was at NDSU, in-state recruits are always a focus and K-State has five commitments for the 2020 class from the state of Kansas. Next-door Missouri, an area where the Bison landed a few players, will always be a potential hot spot for Klieman.
NDSU got players like DeLuca and Emanuel from Nebraska and that won’t change. But that’s about as far north as you’ll see Wildcats coaches on the recruiting trail.
“For us to go to Minnesota or North Dakota, probably not unless there is a niche or somebody we feel would be an automatic fit,” Klieman said. “But for us to send coaches there all year around … Minnesota and North Dakota are mainly Big Ten (Conference) country and it’s probably harder to get guys where the parents can’t see a lot of games in the Upper Midwest.”
Klieman was named the K-State head coach in December and he left immediately after the national title game in Frisco, Texas, in January. He left NDSU with a 69-6 record.
The system won’t change.
“Because I know it works,” he said. “I was a part of this for eight years. There are a number of really good things in place at Kansas State and things we want to add.”
One example came during spring football. It was the first time the Wildcat players did the “double rep” system, meaning two separate groups of offense vs. defense practicing at the same time. Several players rarely got a play off.
“But I think it’s going to build that toughness; that mental toughness and that physical toughness,” Klieman said. “When it’s hot and you’re tired in the fourth quarter, we can continue to play at a high level. And that’s the biggest thing; just practice things that we’re doing differently.”