MANHATTAN – Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder announced several starters on Monday, including running back Charles Jones, center Dalton Risner and receivers Deante Burton and Kody Cook, but he was mum on the highest-profile position battle of the preseason.
Snyder said he has chosen a starting quarterback for the season opener against South Dakota on Saturday, but he will not publicly reveal who it is until the team’s local news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“We feel like we have made an appropriate decision,” Snyder said.
All signs point to Jesse Ertz ultimately winning the job. A redshirt sophomore from Burlington, Iowa, he has improved significantly since serving as the Wildcats’ third-string quarterback last season behind junior Joe Hubener and former starter Jake Waters. He was the top quarterback during spring practices. Then he showed separation from his competition – junior-college transfer Jonathan Banks, freshman Alex Delton and Hubener – at the team’s lone open practice two weeks ago, leading the first-string offense during scrimmages.
Still, it is rare for an underclassman to start at quarterback under Snyder. Collin Klein was the last passer to do it, playing as a sophomore in 2010. The last underclassman quarterback to start the season under Snyder was Dylan Meier in 2004.
Perhaps that is why Snyder deemed the four-man competition wide open earlier this month. He wanted to challenge them.
“It was very competitive throughout,” Snyder said. “I have a great deal of confidence in all four of the youngsters we addressed originally. They worked hard. Those who had less experience in the program were diligent about learning our system and made amazing progress in that respect.”
Snyder said the quarterback pecking order became clear last week, and K-State began dividing their practice work accordingly. He thinks the position has depth.
“The competition helped each one of them become substantially better players,” Snyder said. “I enjoyed watching it.”
Snyder was open about other positions.
At running back, he said junior Charles Jones will lead the way. Jones was K-State’s top rusher a year ago with 540 yards, but that was not enough to lock up the top spot on the depth chart entering this season. He had to fight off challenges from Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon, a pair of redshirt freshmen.
“It was extremely competitive,” Snyder said. “Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack were right there in the mix.”
Jones played much of his sophomore season with a torn posterior cruciate ligament. He hopes to do more with a pair of healthy legs.
At receiver, Snyder said junior Deante Burton and senior Kody Cook had both established themselves as starters, with Kyle Klein, Dominique Heath, Stanton Weber and Andre Davis also showing promise.
“They are all interchangeable with our ones and twos,” Snyder said. “We have a fair degree of depth at both the wide receiver position and the running back position.”
On the offensive line, Snyder praised redshirt freshman Dalton Risner for taking over for B.J. Finney at center.
“He is handling that position, which is critical,” Snyder said. “He is the quarterback of the offensive line.”