Now that the NCAA Tournament is winding down, and I’m back in Manhattan after hitting the road and helping out with Kansas/Wichita State coverage, it’s time for another K-State Q&A.
Being early April, most of your questions revolved around spring football. So let’s get right to them. Thanks, as always, for asking them.
The front-runner is, and should be, Charles Jones. He ran for 540 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, and those numbers are leaps and bounds higher than any of the other candidates. He is also presumably healthier than he was a year ago. He probably wins the job.
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But K-State’s running game was, to put it nicely, average last year. Jones was at his best out of the wildcat formation, leaving many other running back responsibilities to DeMarcus Robinson. And Jake Waters, when healthy, was the team’s top running option. So I imagine Bill Snyder and his staff will give Dalvin Warmack and Jarvis Leverett every opportunity to win the starting job or share backfield duties with Jones.
K-State coaches were high on Warmack after he finished a redshirt season with the scout team. I expect him to challenge for playing time this season. I would slot Leverett behind both, but a good spring could change things.
You’re right. It is very early.
As you know, freshmen rarely walk right into Snyder’s system and contribute immediately. But I do see some candidates.
In the true freshman category, I’m going with quarterback Alex Delton. Graduating early from Hays and arriving on campus in time for spring practices could help him see the field in some capacity next season. Maybe not as the starting quarterback, but perhaps as a wildcat quarterback or at receiver/running back on certain plays. Duke Shelley could also help right away on defense.
If you throw in redshirt freshmen, I would also keep an eye on tight end Dayton Valentine, linebacker Sam Sizelove and Warmack.
QB: Joe Hubener. The former garbage-time hero appears ready to become a full-time contributor, likely in a run-oriented offense. But it will be interesting to see how much Jesse Ertz and Delton push him this month.
RB: Charles Jones. His red-zone opportunities may decrease with Hubener at quarterback, but he has more experience than any other tailback on the roster.
WR: Judah Jones. The safer answers are Deante Burton and Kody Cook. Both did more than Judah Jones last season. But Judah Jones has the most upside. If he can master the playbook and improve as a route-runner, he could have a nice season.
I am most fascinated by the wide receivers. Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton did it all last season with Jake Waters throwing them the ball. Now that all three are gone, a large group is trying to replace them. Burton, Cook, Jones, Andre Davis, Kyle Klein and even Stanton Weber have shown they have talent. But none have produced consistently on the big stage. The opportunity is there for one, or all, of them to step into larger roles. Who will do so? I’m looking forward to discovering the answer.
For me, what a coach was doing before he got hired at a new school is irrelevent. Fred Hoiberg had never coached a college basketball game before he arrived at Iowa State, and that hasn’t prevented him from winning with the Cyclones. Billy Gillispie had won everywhere he had coached, and then bombed at Kentucky and Texas Tech.
It all comes down to fit. Both strategies can work. It depends on the situation.
I think Rick Barnes to Tennessee will be a great move for all involved, even though he’s what you would call, “recycled.” The Volunteers are getting a coach who can take the program back to the NCAA Tournament and consistently compete in the SEC. Texas gets an established young coach in Shaka Smart that may be able to bring the Longhorns back to where they were a decade ago under Barnes, and push them higher.
K-State was not in a position to hire Smart when it hired Weber. When you lack unlimited money or great name recognition, you have to get creative. You can’t just pick any coach you want. I guess that is the message coaches like Gregg Marshall are sending by turning down offers from major programs.