Former Harrisburg quarterback Jacob Knuth transfers to Kansas State

Record-setting, state champion signal-caller left Minnesota after a redshirt season for the Golden Gophers

Jacob Knuth led Harrisburg to the 2021 11AAA state football title.
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SIOUX FALLS — Jacob Knuth was one of the best quarterbacks ever to come out of South Dakota. He led the Harrisburg Tigers to the state championship game in their first year as an 11AAA program when he was a junior, then came back his senior year to finish the job, taking the Sioux Falls suburb to the top of the state's highest class in a dominant, undefeated season.

Knuth had already committed to play college football at the University of Minnesota when that senior year began, and he spent last year as a redshirt on a Gophers team that went 9-4 and won the Pinstripe Bowl.

For Knuth, though, it was not, ultimately, the right fit. He'd been recruited by Gophers offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, Jr., but Sanford left Minnesota before Knuth arrived, and the 6-foot-4 right-hander admits that played a role in him eventually deciding to look elsewhere.

"As you go through the recruiting process you get pretty close with your main recruiter if it’s a good fit. A level of trust develops," Knuth said. "Unfortunately I was recruited by Coach Sanford and for over 10 months we built a relationship, and then two weeks prior to signing day he was let go. So not having Coach Sanford involved with my early development process did play a role in me entering the portal."

The good news for Knuth, though, was that he'd had plenty of other suitors before choosing Minnesota. When he entered the portal, K-State was immediately one of the favorites. They'd recruited Knuth hard out of Harrisburg, and Knuth liked the program enough to take a visit even after he'd verballed to Minnesota.


To hear him tell it, the Wildcats were an easy choice once they reached out again.

"I actually already have great relationships with several coaches," Knuth said. "Without a doubt, the biggest factor in me choosing K-State is my relationship with (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) Collin Klein, and how well we know each other and how much I trust I him. To have the opportunity to be coached by someone like Coach Klein who played college football at the highest level, is such a great man and leader and someone I can relate to and connect with so easily is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up."

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The Wildcats head coach is Chris Klieman, who made a name for himself winning regular national championships at North Dakota State. Klieman has gone 30-20 in five years in Manhattan, and led the Wildcats to 10 wins and the Sugar Bowl last year. Though he's a defensive coach by nature, playing for Klieman was also a big factor for Knuth.

"The success Coach Klieman has had with all his teams over the last decade makes him one of the best head coaches in football," Knuth said. "It’s interesting because everyone knows Coach Klieman is a defensive guy but what people don’t know is that he takes a big role in teaching and developing quarterbacks and their understanding of defensive schemes. That makes him very attractive to anybody that plays the position and why he’s developed so many NFL quarterbacks."

Once he left Minnesota, Knuth received offers from schools in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West, the MAC and some FCS programs who dangled immediate playing time.

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Knuth is confident he'll eventually make his mark at the highest level. He had three different QB coaches with Minnesota from the time of his recruitment to when he left, and while that wasn't ideal, he points out it exposed him to multiple philosophies and gave him valuable feedback and instruction from varied sources.

Will he ever be the starter at Kansas State? There will be fierce competition each season, but Knuth is embracing that and looking forward to donning the purple and playing for a Big 12 title.

"There is phenomenal talent in the QB room at KSU," Knuth said. "It’s really a testament to Coach Klein. I can’t wait to learn from those guys and compete with them. I believe I'll be ready to contribute whenever my number is called and am confident that with my approach to preparation and the coaching I'll be receiving, whenever that opportunity comes I'll be ready to take advantage of it."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, and began a long career in amateur baseball and sports reporting. Email Matt at
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