Kansas State coach Chris Klieman has given up trying to predict which players will be available each week on game day, and with good reason.
The Wildcats already experienced a COVID-19 outbreak less than two weeks before last Saturday's season opener — a 35-31 upset loss to Arkansas State — that included 12 reported positive cases, not to mention those quarantined as the result of contact tracing.
So when assessing the state of his roster and how many players will suit up for the Sept. 26 Big 12 opener at Oklahoma, Klieman was understandably cautious.
"We're still two weeks out from the next game, so if I tell you something, it could change, but we anticipate getting a number of," Klieman said Monday morning during the weekly Big 12 coaches conference call. "Now if that's five or if that's a dozen, I'm not sure, but obviously we were down a number of guys, but so was everybody else in the country.
"You have to be able to overcome it, and we weren't able to do that on Saturday. We're going to practice this week with the guys that we have and hopefully have a little better update for you next Monday."
With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing and especially prevalent on college campuses, coaches continually will be on pins and needles all season, especially with their players now subject to testing three times a week.
"Obviously, practice time, we're going to be talking about that all season, because you think, 'OK, great, you get two weeks not to prepare for the next game.' Well, I don't know how many guys are going to be at practice today, I just don't," Klieman said. "That's going to be where we're at throughout the season.
"I know we had COVID testing this morning and we'll get those results back, and I couldn't tell you if we'll have everybody back that is expected to be back that was there or Saturday, or if we'll lose guys. That's the thing that's so hard to prepare for as a head coach, because you don't know on a day-to-day basis, especially testing three times a week, how many guys you'll have."
One player who will not likely be back for the Oklahoma game is sophomore strong safety Wayne Jones, who suffered an injury during Arkansas State's game-winning drive. He was immobilized and taken to the hospital, though he reported on Twitter a few hours after the game that he walked out of the hospital with just a concussion and some other minor issues.
"I talked to Wayne on Saturday night after he left the hospital," Klieman said. "They did some scan and stuff, and the back and some of the head and neck areas was what their concern was.
"And when you see the hit on film, it's kind of like a whiplash that Wayne suffered. I'm not quite sure how long Wayne will be out, whether it's going to be a couple of weeks to an extended period of time."
Regardless, Jones will not be rushed back into action.
"I know in talking to Wayne on Saturday and then the trainers on Sunday that he was feeling better, but obviously we still have to have precaution and see how long it's going to take him to come back," Klieman said. "But I'm so glad for that (it wasn't more serious), for Wayne."