MANHATTAN — For the past month-plus, Collin Klein literally has been learning — and teaching — on the fly.
More than any assistant on new Kansas State coach Chris Klieman's staff, Klein knows the lay of the land around the Vanier Family Football Complex. As the lone remaining holdover from the Bill Snyder era, he has somewhat of a home-field advantage.
But in many ways, he's also the new kid on the block. Klieman brought with him four assistants from his North Dakota State staff, including offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.
"You kind of get both sides of the equation," said Klein, who remains as the Wildcats' quarterback coach, but in a completely new system. "I didn't want to see coach Snyder's last game (end) like that — you get that part.
"But the other part is, every single one of these guys is our type of guy. They're great people and they're heard-working, they do things the right way."
Klein's first order of business, besides immersing himself in the new offense, has been hitting the recruiting trail ahead of Wednesday's national signing day. The next step will be not only learning the ins and outs of Messingham's system but also imparting that knowledge to returning K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson.
Klein, a former K-State quarterback himself, started his playing career under Ron Prince, but had to learn a new offense when Snyder returned to the sideline in 2009 after a three-year hiatus.
"It's almost exactly the same, and especially at the position," Klein said. "Just because you have to know it all; you've got to know what every person is doing and their assignments and what's going on.
"The same thing applies as a coach. We're all starting from ground zero, but I think to really know something you've got to teach it, so I think me learning it and teaching it to them and as we work our way through this it will make us all better."
Klein said he looks forward to huddling with Thompson on a more regular basis once recruiting slows down.
"We have been gone Monday through Friday and then hosting recruits on the weekends for the most part," Klein said. "That time will greatly increase here the rest of the way until we go on the road again.
"Skylar, he's a student of the game. He's always studying, (and) even when I'm on the road he's watching tape and he's texting me questions, and we're both working at it."
Messingham appreciates the fact that Klein is there to ease the transition for Thompson, a junior, who started all but three games last season.
"The best thing with Collin is it wasn't that long ago that he was producing," Messingham said. "There have been a bunch of really, really good quarterbacks at K-State all the way back to the '90s, but Collin obviously is the (most recent) one that has had huge success who can truly talk to those quarterbacks about what it means to be the leader, what it means to be the face of the program.
"I'm not telling you that one of our quarterbacks will be the face of the program, but if that happens, he'll definitely be able to say, 'Hey, you're all right. You can handle this.' It's good to have that type of guy there."
Thompson's experience, albeit with a different system, is a big plus as well.
"I think having a quarterback back that's played a bunch of games already as a starter is huge for us," Messingham said. "I think the big thing that we have to do is get Skylar to truly understand our offense and the reasons that we're doing what we're doing.
"Because he needs to be the field general out there for us and he's obviously played a lot of games already and I think he'll do a good job for us."
Klein is confident that Thompson will fit nicely into Messingham's system, which much like Snyder's emphasizes ball control and a strong running attack.
"I think it suits him very well," Klein said. "His arm talent and accuracy and things he does in the passing game fits the type of cerebral player that he is and his understanding of the game.
"Especially the second half of the year last year, I saw a major growth curve for him as far as just being able to truly understand what was going on around him at every level. In this system, they put a ton on their (quarterbacks) and they've had guys that have been high IQ football players — Easton Stick, Carson Wentz and (Brock) Jensen before him."