MANHATTAN – Kansas State football players arrive on campus Wednesday for the beginning of preseason practice, exactly one month before they take on South Dakota in their first game.
Here are five important questions facing the Wildcats:
1. Who will start the opener at quarterback?
This question will loom large throughout August. K-State coach Bill Snyder says four contenders – freshman Alex Delton, sophomore Jesse Ertz, junior Joe Hubener and junior-college transfer Jonathan Banks – will compete for the starting job, which means every practice will be important.
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Snyder has offered no prediction or timetable for his selection, but the eventual winner will need to prove himself quickly.
“We probably haven’t gone through that in any previous year, maybe three quarterbacks at one time, but definitely not four,” Snyder said. “We have to be pretty astute in being able to handle that. We can’t go well into the two-a-day period of time and you are asking me the question and I am answering it the same way – we have four guys. We can’t do that.”
It should be an interesting competition. Ertz started during the spring game, but has little game experience. Hubener had his moments as a backup last season, but he seemed to regress during the spring. Delton has shown promise, but he is a freshman. And Banks may be the most athletic player of the bunch, but he is new to the system.
“Someone has to evolve from a performance level,” Snyder said. “That is what it will come down to.”
2. Who will round out the secondary?
With Danzel McDaniel, Morgan Burns and Dante Barnett returning, pass defense appears to be a strength for the Wildcats. Still, they need to develop two unproven defensive backs to round out the secondary. Randall Evans leaves a hole at nickel back, which senior Nate Jackson and junior Donnie Starks figure to compete for. One could also slide over to free safety and play alongside Barnett, though sophomores Sean Newlan and Kaleb Prewett will also be in the mix.
3. How much different will the offense look?
A year ago, K-State threw for 3,736 yards and rushed for 1,745. That won’t happen again. With the departures of quarterback Jake Waters and his favorite two targets, Tyler Lockett and Currie Sexton, the Wildcats will have a more balanced attack that likely favors the run. That is a big transition to make in a short amount of time. Pressure will be on K-State’s offensive line, which returns four starters, to block well.
4. Who will start at running back?
The smart money is on Charles Jones, a junior who rushed for 540 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. But Snyder has said redshirt freshmen Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon will also compete for the job. Jones got off to a hot start as a sophomore, but faded from there. Perhaps some new competition will push him to improve. It’s also possible fullbacks Glenn Gronkowski and Winston Dimel will be used on a more regular basis.
5. Who will step up at receiver?
Kody Cook, Kyle Klein and Deante Burton all have limited experience at the position, but Andre Davis and Dominique Heath could catch their share of passes this season, too. Playing time is completely up for grabs at receiver, with only Burton and Cook topping 100 receiving yards last season. Klein and Burton are solid possession receivers, but the Wildcats will need a deep threat to keep defenses honest.