As Kansas State's new defensive coordinator, Joe Klanderman wasn't looking to reinvent the wheel.
Now that the wheel has a flat — namely the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down spring practice opportunities nationwide — there's simply no time.
But when Klanderman, a veteran on head coach Chris Klieman's staff going back to their days at North Dakota State, was promoted from safeties coach to coordinator at the beginning of March, wholesale changes were not part of the plan to begin with.
The K-State defense flourished in its first year of the Klieman regime under Scottie Hazelton, who left for a similar position — and a hefty raise — at Michigan State. Klanderman hinted that he may take a slightly more aggressive approach, but that for the most part he and Hazelton were of like mind.
"Scottie (Hazelton) and I come from the same (coaching) tree," Klanderman said Wednesday during a video teleconference. "Philosophically, I think I'm similar to Scottie in that I think that if you play sound defense and you eliminate explosive plays, you give yourself a chance.
"Now can you play sound defense and bring pressure? Sure. I don't think I'm a crazy pressure man, but think that maybe we could have been a little more aggressive in some of our zones. We maybe could have been a little more aggressive in our play-calling situation."
By promoting Klanderman, Klieman was able to maintain some continuity in his second season while also turning to a trusted staff member who had been with him for six years — five at North Dakota State and one with the Wildcats. Other than Hazelton, who has since been replaced by linebackers coach Steve Stanard, the defensive staff returns intact.
That Klieman didn't bring in a hired gun as coordinator now looks like a stroke of genius. Imagine having to start from scratch with a new defense and without the benefit of spring practice.
Van Malone, who recently was promoted from cornerbacks coach to assistant head coach and passing game coordinator, did imagine that, and it wouldn't have been a pretty picture.
"If you think about that, it would have been quite a big deal for our players to know that they would have to learn a new system once they return," Malone said. "So for us coaches, it's been refreshing for us to know the calls, for us to know the defenses, and so we can sharpen that.
"It's not the same as it is as a coach when you're learning as they're learning. So to have coaches in the system for two years and the players be in the system for multiple years, I think is an incredible advantage."
Even so, there's work to be done, and at this point that means coaches communicating with players via video conferences and players studying game tape on their iPads.
"Yeah, it's uncharted waters here, isn't it?" Klanderman said. "It's not ideal, (but) everybody's in the same boat, though.
"I guess the way I think about it is, if we're maximizing our time, we're getting ahead, and I think we're doing that as best we can."
That means coaches comparing notes before they impart their information to the players.
"If we're all on the same page with the same voice, it's going to help us move faster when we get everyone together," Klanderman said. "Right now it's film with the guys, it's terminology with the guys (and) learning that stuff. And then the walk-through stuff and the actual pictures, they're going to have to wait until we get some face time with them."
The question remains, when will the face-to-face time come? Will it be in the summer or not until the fall, with just a few short weeks to get ready for the season?
"As far as how that's going to affect us, we'll probably have to simplify the package a little bit," Klanderman said. "Maybe all of the things that we wanted to do originally, we're not going to be able to do. At least not initially in the season.
"And the other thing is, when we get back we're getting plenty of meeting time right now. I think when we get back, the big thing is going to be we're going to have to spend more time in walk-throughs. We're going to have to spend more time on our feet than we would have otherwise."