Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Alex Delton, Joe Hubener, Texas, Big 12 and job speculation

K-State quarterback Alex Delton prepares to fire off a long pass during the annual spring game in Manhattan. (April 23, 2016)
K-State quarterback Alex Delton prepares to fire off a long pass during the annual spring game in Manhattan. (April 23, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Seemingly everyone wrote off the Big 12’s playoff chances when Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU all lost games before the start of conference play, but I’m starting to think that line of thinking was premature.

Baylor, though it hasn’t played anyone, is undefeated and ranked ninth. West Virginia is undefeated with five solid wins and ranked 13th. Oklahoma has rebounded nicely from its 1-2 start and is ranked 16th. And Oklahoma State is one win away from breaking back into the national polls.

Compare that to the Pac-12, which has just two ranked teams (No. 5 Washington and No. 19 Utah), and is it really fair for us to continue declaring the Big 12 as the weakest power conference in the land?

A spot in the playoff still feels like a long shot, as the Bears and Mountaineers will probably have to go undefeated to obtain one and things would really have to get screwy for the Sooners to re-enter the mix. But it’s not impossible. It’s still a long shot, sure, but there’s hope.

The Big 12 took a deserved publicity hit this week when it ended months of expansion speculation by not adding a single team. But the conference deserves more credit than it is currently getting for its football ability.

That’s my two cents, anyway. Now, onto your K-State football questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

Ah, yes, the question K-State fans ask everytime Joe Hubener comes into a game while Alex Delton stays on the sideline with a headset on.

The biggest thing holding Delton back is experience. Could he be more productive than Hubener if given the opportunity? Probably, but Bill Snyder is reluctant to play an unproven freshman quarterback in a crucial situation, such as last week’s road game against Oklahoma.

Hubener has started 11 games for the Wildcats, and, for Snyder, that’s hard to ignore when compared to a third-string quarterback that has barely played.

But it’s also possible Delton isn’t as good as some assume. Snyder said Hubener was “obviously” K-State’s No. 2 quarterback following the Oklahoma game and reiterated that point this week, saying Delton is No. 3. He also said he liked the way Hubener played against the Sooners, going 12 of 23 for 157 yards and a touchdown, and said he thinks he is coming along.

I would have liked to have seen Delton for at least one series against Oklahoma, especially after the coaching staff decided the game was out of reach and began punting on every fourth down. His running ability could help the offense.

But no one outside the team really knows how good or bad Delton has looked in practice this season. He could be awesome. He could be terrible. We have no idea. But Snyder has seen him every day. And it appears he thinks Hubener is simply better than Delton.

Jesse Ertz should play for as long as he is capable.

If he gets hurt, you will see Hubener next. But there’s a decent chance you will eventually see Delton, too. Unless Hubener comes in and dominates.

Hubener’s leash has to be getting shorter. If Ertz is unable to play and he struggles, here’s guessing the coaching staff will give Delton a look at home. This seems like a better time to get him on the field than at Oklahoma.

Can K-State stop the Longhorns’ running game? Sure. Why not? The Wildcats have a great front seven that has proven it can stop teams on the ground. It’s the Shane Buechele deep ball, which he throws beautifully, the defense needs to be worried about.

Given K-State’s passing struggles this season, that might not be a bad strategy, especially if Hubener or Delton end up in the game.

Problem is: Texas is much better defending the run than it is the pass. The Longhorns are surrendering 165.8 yards per game on the ground, compared to 278.5 yards per game through the air.

K-State has scored 13 points in the third quarter this season, compared to 56 in the first, 78 in the second and 41 in the fourth.

I was thinking about that stat earlier this week and what it might mean. Halftime is when coaches make the majority of their adjustments, so it is telling that K-State’s offense has accomplished so little in the third quarter. But the third quarter has been good to K-State’s defense, which has amazingly allowed 13 points in the third quarters, compared to 31 in the first, 38 in the second and 44 in the fourth.

Apparently Dana Dimel needs to make better halftime adjustments, and Tom Hayes needs to make better pre-game preparations.

Let me pull out the old magic eight ball and see.

For football: 20 percent. I honestly don’t think there’s much of a chance Bill Snyder chooses to retire after this season. The team appears good enough to qualify for its seventh straight bowl and returns loads of experience next season. If the youth on this team makes strides and someone emerges at quarterback, K-State could be quite a bit better next season. I doubt Snyder walks away from that.

For basketball: 25 percent. Big 12 coaches don’t think much of the Wildcats, but K-State received votes in USA Today’s preseason Top 25 and checked in at around 50 in several other national outlooks. I expect Bruce Weber to win 20 games and get K-State back to the NCAA Tournament this season. With an administration looking for reasons to keep Weber, rather than fire him, that will be deemed good enough.

Man, look at all these hot-seat questions.

A loss in Manhattan won’t doom Charlie Strong to the point where he won’t be allowed to coach Texas against Baylor. But it won’t help his odds of staying for another season.

Strong has dug himself quite a hole at Texas, but he can climb out of it with a 5-1 finish.

I think most K-State fans would be happy with either coach. They both have experience at K-State and are both currently defensive coordinators for good teams.

That being said, Venables is the better candidate, at least in my eyes.

He played at K-State, coached at K-State and has done great things with Clemson’s defense. Leavitt has experience as a head coach, but his exit from South Florida was ugly and he still carries that baggage.

P.J. Fleck should be one of the hottest coaching candidates on the market this offseason. Given his success at Western Michigan, lots of schools with openings will be interested (including K-State, if Bill Snyder retires).

He is a high-energy coach and has a good thing going at Western Michigan. I don’t see why his age would be a negative factor anywhere. Odds are he will be a Power 5 coach at this time next year. It’s just a question of where.

He’s not working long nights or helping Bill Snyder and his coaching staff come up with game plans each week, but he does spend time with the football team.

You could call him a mentor.

His job requires him to help the K-State athletic administration with football matters, and he helps John Currie make future football schedules. But he also watches some practices and supports the team when the time is right. If they have a question for him, he answers. He does the same with Currie and his staff. His knowledge as a former head football coach is helpful throughout the department.

He helps and offers moral support to the football team, but he’s not in the locker room or coaching offices making suggestions.

Extremely unlikely.

I know some K-State fans believe in the conspiracy theory that Currie hired Kill as a head coach in waiting instead of his actual title of associate athletic director. But I don’t buy that. At all.

Kill retired from coaching for health reasons. Taking on the stresses of a head coach again would put his life at his risk.

This is what he said shortly after being hired at K-State: “Here’s the thing I want to clear up real quick: I cannot ever be a head coach. That is just the way my life is going to be and I am very understanding of that. My next journey is this journey. My way of being part of student-athletes and part of a football program is just this, mentoring people.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett