Deante Burton was walking down a hallway inside Kansas State’s football complex Monday when he heard the news. He will make his first collegiate start when the Wildcats open the season against Stephen F. Austin on Saturday night.
The sophomore receiver is looking forward to the occasion, but that is as far as the positive emotions went.
“It sounds crazy, but it doesn’t mean very much,” Burton said. “We have five or six guys that our offensive coaches trust and could all play. I feel like the competition is still going on. We talk about having a flowing depth chart, so what you see today doesn’t really mean that much.”
Burton’s response was telling. On the same day K-State released its first public depth chart, there was little celebrating from the players that found themselves on it.
Their inclusions were positives, to be sure, but many of the starting spots that were up for grabs at the start of preseason practices remain in flux. So much so that a good showing on Saturday could push any backup to the top of next week’s depth chart. Heck, a string of quality practices leading up to the season opener could alter things.
K-State coach Bill Snyder summed up the in-house competition when he was asked about naming Charles Jones as the team’s starting running back.
“Whether or not that holds true remains to be seen,” Snyder said. “It’s not written in stone right now. It’s still competitive and it will remain competitive throughout a good portion of the week. … If there is a change we will identify that.”
You can count on DeMarcus Robinson, a senior from Wichita Northwest, pushing Jones from the backup slot. Same with Jarvis Leverett, despite not being listed on the depth chart.
“Even though I’m starting, my spot isn’t safe,” Jones said. “Every day, I’m going to have to go in and fight like I’m a two competing for that one spot. … Me, Jarvis and DeMarcus, I feel like at any other place we could start and be stars. We have a really competitive group.”
There are few things Snyder craves more than internal competition, and he appears to have it with this team. Though some of the names on K-State’s depth chart weren’t surprising – Jake Waters at quarterback, Tyler Lockett at receiver or Ryan Mueller at defensive end – there were notable exclusions.
A handful of hyped junior-college transfers – defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales, offensive lineman A.J. Allen and linebackers D’Vonta Derricott and Isaiah Riddle – were nowhere to be seen. All four arrived late to preseason camp and were beaten out by returning talent.
Travis Britz and Valentino Coleman will start at defensive tackle, while Jordan Willis will start opposite Mueller at defensive end. New starters Charmeachealle Moore and Will Davis will help Jonathan Truman at linebacker. Randall Evans, Morgan Burns, Dante Barnett, Dylan Schellenberg and Danzel McDaniel will make up the secondary. (K-State listed defensive starters at 12 positions.)
On offense, right guard Drew Liddle and right tackle Matt Kleinsorge will join Cody Whitehair, Boston Stiverson and B.J. Finney on the line. Glenn Gronkowski and Zach Trujillo will start at fullback and tight end. At receiver, Curry Sexton and Burton will help Lockett as starters, while Judah Jones, Andre Davis and Kody Cook will begin as backups.
“I am so excited to see some of these new guys,” Waters said, “and what they are able to do.”
Outside of the offensive line, the one position Snyder thinks lacks depth, all of them could be pushed by players trying to make a splash on the depth chart. Keep an eye on those late-arriving junior college transfers.
“If you come in after camp has started,” Snyder said, “and you missed all of the summer workouts and you missed all of the spring workouts, it is not an easy task to get yourself on the depth chart where you want to be. But we see promise. … It is a possibility (they make the depth chart), a good possibility. How soon that takes place is up to them.”
The competition continues.
“It has been a fun ride so far and it has been a grind all the way through,” said Davis, a sophomore linebacker. “That is the only way I would expect it to be. You know playing at a school like K-State, it has got to be a grind each day and it is.”
Warmack will likely redshirt – Freshman running back Dalvin Warmack is not in the mix for playing time, and Snyder expects the Blue Springs (Mo.) product to redshirt.
A pair of his high school teammates made K-State’s depth chart as freshmen, though. Kaleb Prewett will open the season behind Dylan Schellenberg at free safety, while Elijah Lee will backup Moore at linebacker.
Backup rewarded – Joe Hubener had a successful preseason camp. The sophomore from Cheney beat out Jesse Ertz for the backup quarterback job and earned a scholarship in the process.
Snyder praised the former walk-on.
“He has really done a nice job,” Snyder said. “He has caught eyes during the course of two-a-days.”
Committee approach – Snyder expects to use a committee approach to the running back position against Stephen F. Austin, rotating Jones and Robinson. He may also use Leverett. He is hopeful one of them will rise to the top of the group as a permanent starter, but he is also comfortable rotating running backs.