Get to know new K-State foot­ball as­sis­tants Ja­son Ray, Joe Klan­der­man, Conor Ri­ley

The Wichita Eagle - - Sports - BY KELLIS ROBINETT krobi­[email protected]­chi­taea­gle.com

Twelve years have passed since Ja­son Ray last played in a foot­ball game against Kansas State, but it doesn’t feel that way to him.

“One of my best mem­o­ries is from my se­nior year leav­ing Man­hat­tan,” Ray said. “We were about to go play Kansas that next (week) and ev­ery­one was cheer­ing for us to go beat Kansas. I thought that was un­be­liev­able as a se­nior walk­ing off that field.”

Ray was a re­ceiver at Mis­souri back then. The year was 2007 and it was a wild one for both the Tigers and the Jay­hawks. Mis­souri de­feated K-State to im­prove to 10-1 on the same day KU beat Iowa State to start 11-0.

They met a week later in a high-stakes game at Ar­row­head Sta­dium. Much to the de­light of K-State foot­ball fans, Ray and his Tigers beat Kansas to win the Big 12 North.

Now, Ray is set to help the Wild­cats in a more di­rect way as the team’s new re­ceivers coach after help­ing Chris Klie­man guide North Dakota State to a FCS cham­pi­onship this past sea­son.

“It’s an easy re­cruit­ing sell,” Ray said. “Man­hat­tan is a great com­mu­nity in the Big 12 with great fa­cil­i­ties and re­sources. My fam­ily and I are both ready to get there and get rolling.”

That ex­cite­ment is shared by the three other NDSU as­sis­tants who are fol­low­ing Klie­man to K-State.

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Court­ney Mess­ing­ham is ea­ger to tran­si­tion his sys­tem into the Big 12, of­fen­sive line coach Conor Ri­ley is ready to help de­velop block­ers and safeties coach Joe Klan­der­man is look­ing for­ward to boost­ing KS­tate’s sec­ondary.

Most of all, they are glad to stay to­gether on a new staff.

“Coach Klie­man has done a great job of hir­ing peo­ple here who really un­der­stand that it is more about the peo­ple and the process than it is about win­ning,” Mess­ing­ham said. “You let the win­ning some­what take care of it­self if you get the right peo­ple in place and un­der­stand that the process is the key.”

All four as­sis­tants have dif­fer­ent coach­ing styles, but they should have no prob­lem mesh­ing with the cul­ture al­ready es­tab­lished at K-State.

Mess­ing­ham in­tends to use a more di­verse ver­sion of the run-heavy of­fense the Wild­cats have used in pre­vi­ous years.

Klan­der­man will preach fun­da­men­tals and ef­fort with his de­fen­sive backs.

“I feel like you are what you do,” Klan­der­man said. “We don’t pre­tend to be some­thing that we’re not. We try to em­pha­size the things we are good at and we try to hide the things we are not as good at. As a re­sult, we have suc­cess.”

For Ray, it’s all about tough­ness and savvy when it comes to

re­ceivers.

“I need guys who can make plays,” Ray said. “You need to be tough enough to catch a pass across the mid­dle, to block on the perime­ter and to pre­pare.”

K-State’s of­fen­sive line was usu­ally a strength un­der for­mer coach Bill Sny­der. Ri­ley, who re­spect­fully de­clined to speak with re­porters after North Dakota State won the FCS cham­pi­onship on Sat­ur­day, will try and make it bet­ter.

“He is such a good teacher,” Mess­ing­ham said. “Not only are our of­fen­sive line­men phys­i­cal, but they really un­der­stand the game. That is one thing he does prob­a­bly bet­ter than any­one I have been around.”

They also bring new re­cruit­ing ter­ri­to­ries with them. Mess­ing­ham likes to find tal­ent in Mis­souri, Iowa and Florida. Klan­der­man has spent con­sid­er­able time in Chicago. Ray grew up in Ok­la­homa and should help the Wild­cats re­cruit in that state. He helped Ok­la­homa State land Tyreek Hill when he worked with the Cow­boys.

K-State coaches be­gan shar­ing ideas and plan­ning for the fu­ture on Mon­day when they had their first staff meet­ing with Klie­man.

Time will tell what they can ac­com­plish to­gether. But their fa­mil­iar­ity with each other and K-State should help make for a smooth tran­si­tion.

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