By Tim Fitzgerald
MANHATTAN, Kan. (247Sports.com) – One of Kansas State football’s icons accepted the offensive coordinator job at Texas A&M, GoPowercat was told in the early morning hours of Wednesday. Sources confirmed to GoPowercat that offensive coordinator Collin Klein has elected to move on from Manhattan for the 2024 season after spending Tuesday night “torn” about whether to head to College Station or stay in Manhattan.
So, barring another overnight revelation as he did a year ago with an offer from Notre Dame, Klein is gone.
Now attention turns to not only Klein’s replacements as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, but also to the status of freshman quarterback Avery Johnson. Early indications Tuesday night pointed to Johnson being solid with Kansas State despite his position coach, and the man who personally recruited him to K-State, departing for an SEC job.
Johnson will make his first career start on December 28 when the Wildcats play North Carolina State in the Pop-Tarts Bowl.
GoPowercat will soon post a Hot Board listing potential offer since coordinator candidates for Coach Chris Klieman, as we as further reporting on Johnson’s status and possible QB coaches to replace Klein.
A former Heisman Trophy finalist under head coach Bill Snyder, the 34-year-old assistant coach has embodied the Powercat logo for the better part of the past two decades, working his way from the playing field to the press box as an offensive guru for Chris Klieman.
For the past seven seasons Klein has operated as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach, guiding several statistical standouts. After developing Skylar Thompson into an NFL caliber signal caller, Klein’s most recent mark was made on star Will Howard. Setting the program’s all-time record for career touchdown passes during the 2023 season, Howard brought K-State’s offensive attack to national leaderboards and helped solidify Klein as one of the country’s up and coming play-callers.
Since taking over offensive coordinator duties exclusively in 2022, the Wildcat offense has greatly elevated in numerous, key categories. Averaging close to 32 minutes in time of possession each of the past two seasons, K-State has averaged 432 yards of total offense and scored an average of 35 points per game. A Top 25 red zone unit in both years, Klein also boosted the 2023 version into the Top 15 for first downs with his balanced mix of passing and rushing. Entering the 2023 postseason, K-State’s unit sits just outside the Top 10 in scoring offense, heights unseen in the Little Apple since 2012 when Klein was orchestrating the line of scrimmage with the ball in his hands.
Named the 2012 Big 12 Athlete of the Year and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner, the Loveland, Colo. native finished his Wildcat playing career ranking in the school’s Top 10 in 34 different game, season and career record categories. Holding a 21-5 record as a starter, including a Big 12 Championship and brief No. 1 national ranking, Klein was placed in K-State Football’s Ring of Honor in 2022.
Beyond his on-field, in-game accolades, the Wildcat assistant has also evolved into an accomplished recruiter. From his lending a hand with the pursuit of Jake Waters back when his own playing career had yet to be completed, Klein has been instrumental in K-State landing some of the program’s most sought after targets. Since assisting with the four-star Thompson in 2016, Klein has added seven more quarterbacks, six of whom were considered among the Top 40 at their positions by 247 Composite. John Holcombe, Howard and Jake Rubleywere all among the Top 3 rated signees in their respective classes but none matched the level of victory seen when Klein landed Avery Johnson in 2023. The catalyst behind K-State bringing on the Elite 11, T0p 85 overall recruit, Klein’s pursuit of Johnson made for the program’s most illustrious recruiting win in 247Sports history. His 2024 commitment, Blake Barnett, recently broke a career touchdowns record previously held by Christian McCaffrey as well.
Texas A&M’s Mike Elko succeeded where others had missed. Penn State had reportedly extended the same opportunity to Klein within the last week, while Notre Dame came incredibly close to prying him away from K-State a year ago before the coordinator ultimately slept off a chance to lead the Fighting Irish.
“The Lord really put it on my heart that there was still work to do here,” Klein said publicly about the situation last March. “My players and knowing that my mission here isn’t done and my guys were really the two things that made me at peace with knowing I was supposed to be here.”
Where K-State turns is anyone’s guess. Offensive line coach Conor Riley has been alongside Klieman since 2014 and would be the simplest in-house transition, but the accomplished position lead hasn’t held play calling duties since 2010 when he was run game coordinator at Nebraska-Omaha. And even then, K-State will still need to locate a new quarterbacks coach for a room that’s been greatly depleted this winter by the transfer portal.