Kansas State had a rough ending to their regular season. They lost to a team that was 6-6 and gave up over 200 rushing yards to a backup running back. Then to add insult to injury, shortly after that loss, their starting quarterback announced he was entering the transfer portal. Brutal.
However, things started to look up after their bowl win over NC State. Yes, a lot of players entered the transfer portal, and several players declared for the NFL Draft, but Avery Johnson looked really good against NC State. DJ Giddens also showed why he was the right guy to replace Deuce Vaughn.
However, a lot of players left for certain reasons and Chris Klieman has a very young roster going forward. A lot of young guys are hungry to get into the mix and compete, but which guys should Klieman look to replace with that young talent?
Yes, experience and seniority are important, but if young freshmen and sophomores are working harder and outplaying the older guys, why not give them a shot? So here are three players that had their chance in 2023 and should be replaced in 2024.
WR Keagan Johnson
Keagan Johnson was set up to be the star wide receiver for the Wildcats. He was number one on the depth chart for outside wide receivers and came from a Power Five program in Iowa. In his freshman season with the Hawkeyes, he saw action in 13 games and started in nine of them bringing in 18 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson struggled with an injury that forced him to miss 10 games in his second season, which then turned into his redshirt season. He then transferred to K-State and set up to have a breakout year after the Wildcats lost Malik Knowles and Kade Warner to the NFL Draft. However, Johnson did not step up in the moment.
Johnson was used sparingly in the rushing game in motion plays, gaining only 26 yards on eight carries. Coming out of high school, Johnson's speed and ability to create separation were his best attributes. In the receiving game, he racked up 227 yards on 24 receptions, over 100 yards less than his freshman season.
The redshirt sophomore will come in with some of the most experience in Klieman's offense but with the amount of young talent Klieman has, anyone is poised to come in a replace Johnson if he doesn't step up his game in 2024.
TE Christian Moore
Christian Moore came to K-State as a fullback, but Klieman uses that position more as a moving tight end position. He was used mostly in the blocking game in 2023, but very sparingly in the receiving game.
Moore only recorded one reception for two yards and a touchdown all season long. With star tight end Ben Sinnott leaving for the NFL Draft, a spot could open up for Moore, but based on his lack of plays in 2023, other players can be a more viable option for the Wildcats.
Will Swanson is poised to take over for Sinnott in the 2024 year. Garret Oakley will most likely move to Moore's position as a blocking fullback/tight end.
While Moore was known as a good blocker, it just doesn't make sense going forward for Klieman to field a player who does not contribute to the receiving game, especially with Sinnott and lead wide receiver Philip Brooks leaving.
DE Cody Stufflebean
Defensive end Cody Stufflebean has an amazing name. However, his play in 2023 wasn't anything to write home about. In 2023, Stufflebean recorded only 19 total tackles, 14 solo tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.
In five out of the 13 games, he didn't record any tackles or sacks. his best game was against a struggling Baylor offense with lots of injuries. He recorded four total tackles, three of them solo tackles and those were his two sacks on the season.
Klieman went out and recruited some defensive talent. He got a four-star defensive tackle out of Maine, a three-star defensive tackle out of Colorado, and transfer Austin Bates out of Austin Peay State University, who was rated a three-star transfer.
Stufflebean is a junior on a young Kansas State team, and we all know Klieman is going with his young talent behind Avery Johnson at QB. Stufflebean would have to raise his left of production to stay in the starting lineup in 2024.