Kansas State University

Jesse Ertz looks like top quarterback at Kansas State practice

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder watches freshman Alex Delton throw a pass while three other quarterback contenders wait their turns during the team's open practice Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder watches freshman Alex Delton throw a pass while three other quarterback contenders wait their turns during the team's open practice Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium. The Wichita Eagle

Jesse Ertz appears to have a leg up on the competition in Kansas State’s crowded quarterback battle.

The sophomore from Burlington, Iowa, handled snaps with the Wildcats’ first-string offense during scrimmages at an open practice Saturday. He also appeared more accurate in passing drills than fellow contenders Jonathan Banks, Alex Delton and Joe Hubener.

One practice in mid-August won’t decide the winner of a quarterback race that coach Bill Snyder has deemed wide open, but it was telling to see him completing deep balls against K-State’s experienced secondary while others bounced throws and looked inconsistent. Ertz has little experience in live games, but he did serve as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback in the spring.

Snyder has said he wanted to establish a quarterback hierarchy as quickly as possible. Perhaps one is forming with Ertz on top and the other three chasing.

Banks, Delton and Hubener all showed their strengths and weaknesses, with Delton and Hubener outperforming Banks, a junior-college transfer who appeared frustrated with his throws.

Other players that stood out Saturday were Dominique Heath, a redshirt freshman receiver who was playing with the first-string offense, sophomore defensive back Sean Newlan, who was playing safety next to veteran Dante Barnett, and Donnie Starks, a junior playing in the primary nickelback position.

Tanner Wood, of Conway Springs, also had several strong plays at defensive end. He could emerge as a starting option on the defensive line this season.

Two other players working with added jolts of enthusiasm were linebackers Colborn Couchman and Trent Tanking. Both former walk-ons received scholarships this week.

It was somewhat surprising to see junior Terrale Johnson and senior Aaron Bennett working with the first-string offensive line, given that the unit returned four starters. But it’s possible they were merely splitting time with Matt Kleinsorge and Boston Stiverson.

Running back appeared to be a close race with Charles Jones, Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon rotating snaps. That position battle may rage on leading up to the opener against South Dakota on Sept. 5.

Snyder and K-State’s team captains said little about formations and personnel when addressing the crowd at the conclusion of practice. Snyder said he was proud of his players for staying out of trouble throughout the offseason.

“These are good guys,” Snyder said, “who take care of themselves and each other on and off the field.”

Players thanked the fans and pointed out K-State’s new football complex, which gives the stadium a completely new feel on the north end. They can’t wait to play in front of it and a sellout crowd in three weeks.

They promised to give their all.

“I am so thankful and proud of the guys behind me,” senior corner Morgan Burns of Wichita said. “We have been working hard since January and are ready to get this season started.”

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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