One day after a weekend where K-State hosted a 2024 wide receiver on a visit, K-State’s wide receiver coach is reportedly leaving the program for a job at Illinois.
According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, Thad Ward will be returning to Illinois as their running backs coach, a role he had from 2016-2018 under then-head coach Lovie Smith. He will now join the current head coach and former K-State assistant Bret Bielema.
Sources: Kansas State wide receivers coach Thad Ward is finalizing a deal to become the running backs coach at Illinois. Ward is the former RB coach at Illinois from 2016-18. He’s been at Temple, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 30, 2023
Ward came to K-State after spending 2019-2021 as the Temple wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Since arriving in Manhattan, Ward helped K-State achieve major wins in the recruiting world.
Ward delivered Jayce Brown from the state of Florida, where Ward is originally from and played collegiately at UCF, as well as K-State’s transfer addition at receiver, Keagan Johnson from Iowa.
In addition to Brown, Ward helped K-State lock down three other receivers in the 2023 recruiting class while fighting off other major programs. Wesley Watson flipped to K-State from Colorado, Tre Spivey out of Arizona had numerous Big 12 and Pac-12 offers, and local product Andre Davis was the first to commit back in June.
K-State also saw on-field success at the receiver spot under Ward’s lone season in Manhattan. The Wildcats had three receivers over 400 yards for the first time since 2017, and also had their first 700-yard receiver since that same season.
Chris Klieman will now have to add his fourth different wide receivers coach in five seasons at K-State. Jason Ray served the role the first two seasons before Courtney Messingham flipped from tight ends until he was fired at the end of the 2021 regular season.
As the news becomes official from both Illinois and K-State, more candidates will likely emerge for the job. One early name to watch is former Wildcat wide receiver and special teamer, Stanton Weber. Weber recently left South Carolina to assume the role of special teams coordinator at Toledo and spent time on the K-State coaching staff as a quality control coach after his playing days.