The mystery of what happened in the last two weeks, of how the battle to be Kansas State’s backup quarterback went down, won’t be cleared up until Tuesday. That’s when the first depth chart is released.
But what we need to know about the players, stakes and a tiny clue are out there, and they spell out the path to being the man who takes over if anything happens to Jake Waters.
“Jesse Ertz and Joe Hubener are in the battle for the No. 2 position … and we like the competition because that’s bringing out the best in them,” K-State co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Del Miller said on Aug. 6. “They’re both bright, both throw the ball well and both could end up being a good fit for us.”
Ertz and Hubener are about the same size – 6-foot-4 and around 200 pounds – but that’s where the similarities seem to end.
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Ertz has the much more attractive pedigree as a former Iowa Gatorade Player of the year who threw for a state-record 98 touchdowns in his career at Burlington’s Mediapolis High. His 7,317 passing yards are fifth in the state’s career passing list.
Ertz sat out as a red-shirt last year and won the Red Raider Award as K-State’s top scout team player.
“The competition makes everyone’s game elevate, but I don’t think we look at it like we’re going against each other, necessarily, because we’re still teammates,” Ertz. “(Hubener) makes a good play, I go to tell him he did a good job or give him a high-five.
“We’re both definitely locked in. It’s making us both work harder, play better.”
Hubener, a walk-on from Cheney, has made his name as an athlete – no doubt tracing back to his high-school roots, where he also played wide receiver and defensive back. He actually saw game competition last season, rushing for five yards on two carries in a win over Iowa State.
“We need to get to the point where, if we had to, we could step in without taking a step back,” Hubener said. “The competition makes you play smarter. You know you have have to beat somebody out so you’re incredibly focused on making the right reads, on making the good throw.”
Saturday’s one-hour glimpse into K-State practice at Fan Appreciation Day showed Waters taking all of the first-team reps during team time, and in 7-on-7 drills. Hubener came in next, then Ertz, in both situations.
Last year’s dual-quarterback system meant that in games, Wildcat opponents knew that the quarterback on the sideline – either Waters or Daniel Sams, who transferred to McNeese State – was a potent option.
There will be no such threat this year. That is, until Hubener or Ertz can show he’s ready to make plays in the Big 12.
“With me, personally, it didn’t really make a difference when Daniel left because I knew I had to get to a certain point as a player, and that needed to happen whether he stayed or not,” Ertz said. “Best of luck to Daniel at his new home, but I don’t think we’re really worried about him or filling in for him. We have to perform, bottom line.”