MANHATTAN — Chris Klieman made it clear when he took the Kansas State coaching job that he wasn't about to turn his back on the Wildcats' senior class to focus on the future.
But a few freshmen already are making an impact for the Wildcats, and that number could grow as they head into a second bye week before resuming Big 12 play on Oct. 19 with a 1:30 p.m. home game against TCU
Wide receiver Joshua Youngblood has appeared in all five games and Joe Ervin played for the second time last Saturday in a 31-12 loss to Baylor. Both are true freshmen.
"I know that the future is now, but the future's also bright because we're playing an awful lot of (freshmen) and there are still a handful of guys that we discussed Sunday that area really close to playing, whether that means they're going to play all the rest of the games or just play the four," Klieman said Tuesday, during his weekly media session. "This will be a big week because we are going to put those guys in a lot of situations where they're going maybe not against first-team guys but maybe against a guy that's our third wideout and he's the third corner, to see how close they are.
"Because we're going to need them going forward."
After dropping both games since their last bye — they're now 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12 — the Wildcats are looking for a spark, especially with some key injuries cropping up in recent weeks. Redshirt freshman Malik Knowles, their most dynamic receiver, is battling a foot injury and graduate transfer running back Jordon Brown
The speedy Youngblood, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from Tampa, Fla., has appeared both as a receiver and kick returner, catching three passes for 27 yards and averaging 23.7 yards on three kickoff returns.
"I feel like they've been trying to see who can make plays and trying to get the ball in a couple of people's hands," Youngblood said. "So I've just got to make the opportunity when it's there."
The 5-8, 177-pound Ervin made his debut with eight carries for 28 yards in a blowout of Bowling Green and was pressed into service in the Baylor game with Brown sidelined for the foreseeable future. He finished with 21 yards on five attempts.
"With us losing Jordon for a little bit, we wanted to get another back involved that had some juice like Joe does, and so we gave him a few carries, and we were really pleased with what we saw," Klieman said. "Same thing (as with Youngblood). The stage wasn't too big for him, and I think moving forward, you'll see more of both those guys."
Youngblood already has exceeded the four-game limit for preserving his redshirt year and Ervin said he believes he is getting close to reaching that point, depending in part on Brown's status.
"Coming in, I was leaning that I was going to redshirt due to the fact of my size," he said. "But it's slower now and I understand the game more, thanks to coach (Brian) Anderson and the rest of the coaching staff.
"So now I can believe in myself to take on a bigger role."
Youngblood was a player Klieman had targeted as a prospect from the beginning, and that was reinforced from the time he arrived.
"Josh is further ahead simply because I think he did a phenomenal job during the summer of trying to learn as much as he could from the older guys and it just came to him a little easier," Klieman said. "Even away from the ball sometimes, he does a really good job of getting open and a really good job of blocking."
Youngblood was joined on the field in the Baylor game by his roommate and fellow true freshman receiver Chris Herron, a converted quarterback who provides some size at 6-foot-2, 194 pounds. And redshirt freshman Phillip Brooks had a career game against the Bears with seven catches for 69 yards.
Other true freshmen who have seen action are fullback Jax Dineen and running back Jacardia Wright.
"We just came off a bye week — we played two games and we have another bye week — so we are doing things a little bit differently simply because this is the last bye week we have and we want to get some looks at some younger players," Klieman said. "And so we'll put some guys in positions — we'll even scrimmage one day a little bit with the young guys that maybe haven’t played as much."