Kansas State University

Five things to watch as Kansas State begins spring football practice

K-State quarterback Alex Delton (5) celebrates a touchdown in the Cactus Bowl.
K-State quarterback Alex Delton (5) celebrates a touchdown in the Cactus Bowl.

The Kansas State football team begins spring practice on Wednesday.

Here are five key story lines before the Wildcats hold their annual spring game at 1:10 p.m. on April 21.

1. Alex Delton vs. Skylar Thompson

There have been many competitive quarterback battles at K-State over the years, but this one could top them all. Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson both won big games last season and proved they are capable of starting. But only one of them will take the first snap when the 2018 season begins against South Dakota.

For now, they appear dead even.

Thompson came off the bench to help K-State beat Kansas and Texas Tech and then led the Wildcats to important victories over Oklahoma State and Iowa State. They would not have played in a bowl game without him. As a redshirt freshman, Thompson completed 51 of 83 passes for 689 yards and five touchdowns, adding 267 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

He started K-State's last four games while Delton recovered from concussions. But Delton played well initially in relief of injured starter Jesse Ertz and ended the year rushing for 158 yards and three touchdowns in a Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA.

Delton was the team's second-leading rusher despite playing in seven games. He ran for 500 yards and eight touchdowns, adding 637 yards and five touchdowns through the air.

Both players have experience and dual-threat skills. Teammates seem to have confidence in each of them. K-State football coach Bill Snyder will likely wait until September approaches to choose a winner.

2. New coordinators

How different will the offense look with Andre Coleman calling the plays? How much will the defense change with Blake Seiler running the show?

Fans will get an early glimpse at the spring game.

Snyder traditionally lets K-State quarterbacks call their own plays in that setting, and the defense is unlikely to reveal anything radical. But it will be interesting to see personnel choices and formations. Will fullback remain a key part of the offense? Will cornerbacks continue to line up 10 yards off receivers?

There are bound to be some changes, even if they are subdued for the spring.

3. Next receiver up

Top returners Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen will lead the way at receiver this spring and next season, but there's no telling who will complement them on passing plays.

With the departures of Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath, the Wildcats return only two proven receivers. Zuber led the way last season with 51 catches for 510 yards and four touchdowns, while Schoen grabbed 23 passes for 470 yards and three scores. After that, few others contributed.

Isaiah Harris and Zach Reuter combined to catch nine passes for 157 yards last season. No other returning receiver caught a pass last season.

The spring game will give young players Landry Weber and D.J. Render an opportunity to show off their skills. It could also be interesting to see whether Dalvin Warmick sees a bigger role in the passing game.

4. Line change at linebacker

The Wildcats are going to look a lot different at linebacker.

Trent Tanking and Jayd Kirby, the leading tacklers on last year's team, are both out of eligibility. That means K-State is about to get a lot younger, and possibly more athletic, on defense.

Elijah Sullivan seems poised to take on a larger role after making 28 tackles as the team's third linebacker last season. But Da'Quan Patton, Justin Hughes and a few other linebackers could also step in and make an impact.

It may be difficult for them to match the knowledge and leadership Tanking and Kirby brought to the field, but they have all the physical tools to play at a high level.

5. Taking over on special teams

It might not sound as important as other positions, but K-State will need to find new contributors everywhere on special teams.

Without Matthew McCrane (kicker), Nick Walsh (punter), Mitch Lochbihler (holder), Drew Scott (long snapper), Byron Pringle (returner) and D.J. Reed (returner), the Wildcats face universal turnover on special teams.

Blake Lynch, Andrew Hicks, Nick McLellan and Jake Roark should all compete at kicker. Devin Anctil, Bernardo Rodriguez and McLellan should compete at punter.

The return slots will be wide open.