Kansas State University

Why two K-State quarterbacks are taking hits and getting physical at practice

Green jerseys don’t protect Kansas State quarterbacks the way they used to in practice settings.

Take a look at the latest video K-State football posted on its social media accounts and see for yourself. There you will find John Holcombe colliding with defensive back Derek Bowman in a one-on-one tackling drill. A few seconds later, there’s Chris Herron running through Ekow Boye-Doe while his offensive teammates hoot and holler with delight.

Both ball carriers are listed on the K-State roster as quarterbacks, and Holcombe might end up serving as Skylar Thompson’s primary backup this season, but that didn’t stop him from initiating contact like a running back while he wore a green, no-contact jersey.

“As Coach (Chris) Klieman has probably said, we are going to put our best athletes in a position to help us on the field in one way shape or form,” K-State quarterbacks coach Collin Klein said Tuesday. “To both of those guys’ credit, they dove in head first and got after it.”

To be fair, Holcombe and Herron are both candidates to play elsewhere this season. It’s not like Thompson was out there lowering his shoulder into an oncoming tackler.

If Holcombe ends up behind Nick Ast on the depth chart at quarterback, there’s a good chance the Wildcats will utilize his size (6-foot-4, 249 pounds) and athleticism on special teams. And with Herron unlikely to see action under center as a freshman, he is splitting reps between quarterback and receiver at the moment.

The way he has looked catching the ball lately, Herron might trade in his green jersey for a purple one full time.

“Chris has been the last few days more of a receiver,” Klein said. “We are holding that very loosely. We don’t want to get him caught in the middle of trying to do so much that he doesn’t get the chance to master the craft of one position. Not being in that top two quarterback race immediately has kind of pushed that more to where his initial impact this season will probably be at receiver. So we are going to give him a little more chance to grow at that position.”

Still, Klein would like to see Herron remain at quarterback for the long term.

Herron is unlikely to challenge Dalton Schoen, Malik Knowles, Wykeen Gill and Joshua Youngblood for a starting role in the passing game this season, but K-State coaches won’t hesitate to play him if he keeps progressing.

Ideally, the Wildcats would like to rotate as many as eight receivers in their new offense. That leaves potential room for Herron.

“He has an athletic future here,” K-State receivers coach Jason Ray said. “I think that he is cerebral and he is smart, having his quarterback background. Athletically, I think the sky is the limit for him.”

For now, Holcombe’s future is in limbo.

The 6-4, 249-pounder might be a major contributor on special teams. He might be the team’s backup quarterback. But he won’t be both.

“We are still up and down as a group,” Klein said. “Nick did a great job today and handled some pressure situations and things. He jumped in and attacked and was on top of things, which is good to see. But there is too much inconsistency between he and John to truly say either one of them has an edge.”

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