Kansas State Preview: Offense

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QUARTERBACK

The quarterback position draws the largest intrigue and focus for Wildcat fans during the

offseason, attention well deserved as Kansas State looks to find someone capable of replacing Jake Waters. Bill Snyder and quarterback coach Del Miller have four strong candidates to replace Waters at quarterback for the 2015 season: Joe Hubener, Jesse Ertz, Jonathan Banks, and Alex Delton.

http---ksu-platform-prod.silverchalice.co-v3-images-contents-55c4b207e4b0d44f51c1eba1Hubener, a 6’5″, 211 pound Junior who attended high school in Cheney, Kansas, has the most game experience in a Wildcat uniform, throwing 17 times last year for 235 yards and a touchdown in addition to 27 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Hubener’s style can be described as a physical runner with a powerful but inaccurate arm, similar to former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. While Hubener appeared to have the inside track to the quarterback position at the end of the 2014 season, he appears to have fallen behind in the race after Jesse Ertz started for the purple (first string) team in the spring game and Hubener threw for only 67 yards in addition to an interception in that game.

Jesse Ertz also received playing time in a Wildcat uniform in 2014, carrying the ball seven times with no pass attempts. Although Ertz did not attempt a pass last year, Ertz resembles more of a pure pocket passer, similar to last year’s quarterback Waters (both Ertz and Waters hail from Iowa). Ertz performed better than Hubener in the spring game with nine passes completed for 159 yards and a touchdown, although Ertz has not separated himself by any means from the other quarterbacks.

Alex Delton comes to Kansas State as a true freshman who graduated a semester early from Hays (KS) High School. Delton comes to Manhattan after gaining nearly 3,000 total yards and 31 touchdowns in his senior season at Hays. Delton also comes to K-State with strong athletic qualities, standing at 6’1″ and recording a 4.42 second 40-yard dash. While Delton may not necessarily be as polished as Hubener and Ertz, Delton has the potential to be the next great Kansas State quarterback and appears to be willing to put in the work to make himself a successful football player. If Delton does not redshirt the 2015 season, Kansas State may look to utilize more run schemes if Delton receives playing time to take pressure off of Delton’s development.

Jonathan Banks enters the quarterback race as a wildcard after joining the team in May as a four-star JUCO recruit from Contra Costa College in California. Banks appears to offer efficiency after completing 60 percent of his passes last year at an average of 14.2 yards per completion in addition to providing a running threat after running for 700 yards in 2014. While Banks could have been brought in to provide another option at quarterback after a poor spring game performance at the position, Banks could be the next JUCO quarterback gem for Kansas State, following in the footsteps of Waters and Michael Bishop.

PROJECTION: Delton will most likely redshirt, leaving the battle between Hubener, Ertz, and Banks. It is hard to see any separation between the three, but it would not be a surprise to see Hubener start against South Dakota due to his position on the depth chart in 2014 over Ertz and having greater experience than Banks in the Wildcat system.


 

RUNNING BACK

http---static.silverchalice.co-ksu-prod-2015-06-25-Jones-1435201812978Kansas State’s situation at running back in 2015 has also garnered great attention from the fanbase in the offseason  as the Wildcats look to improve on ranking 101st in rushing yards per game last year. The Wildcats return Charles Jones, Kansas State’s leading rusher behind Jake Waters in 2014, after he rushed for 540 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Jones was used greatly in the Wildcat formation and led the team in touchdowns from scrimmage, although some of his performances left something to be desired, such as gaining a negative yard against TCU and only four yards against West Virginia. The Wildcats also return Jarvis Leverett Jr. from 2014, who gained 67 yards on the ground on 20 carries, and fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who only gained six rushing yards but was used as a receiving threat, catching five passes for 99 yards. Quarterbacks Hubener and Ertz also contributed to the ground game in 2014.

Kansas State brings in a number of recruits to help the situation at running back. Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon lose their redshirts from last year and look to finally contribute to the team. Warmack was one of the stars of Kansas State’s 2014 recruiting class after he won an award for being the top high school football player in the Kansas City metro area twice.  Fullback Winston Dimel also loses his redshirt this season, a three-star recruit who is also the son of Wildcat co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel.

As part of the class of 2015, Kansas State brings in four true freshman running backs: three-star Alex Barnes from Pittsburg (KS) High School, three-star Kalin Heath from Cartersville (GA) High School, two-star Denzel Goolsby from Bishop Carroll (KS) High School (who gave a moving speech at a sports banquet following the death of his father ), and three-star Tyler Burns from Trinity Academy in Wichita, Kansas.

PROJECTION: Jones will likely start, but will receive a strong push from Leverett Jr., Warmack, and Silmon. The true freshmen on the roster have a good chance at redshirting. 


 

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Like the previously listed position groups on offense, the 2015 outlook at wide receiver garners great offseason attention due to the loss of two 1,000-yard receivers in Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. Kansas State returns five players at wide receiver who made a reception in 2014: Deante Burton, a Manhattan (KS) High School product who caught 17 passes for 171 yards, Kody Cook, a former Kansas State quarterback and a Louisburg (KS) High School and Hutchinson (KS) Community College product, who caught 20 passes for 251 yards, Steven West, a Fossil Ridge (TX) product who caught a 15-yard touchdown pass against Stephen F. Austin, Andre Davis, a Santa Rosa (CA) Community College product and special teams contributor who caught two passes for 14 yards, and Stanton Weber, a Bishop Miege (KS)  product, special teams contributor, 2013-14 First Team Academic All-Big 12, 2015 team captain, and son of Stan Weber (the color commentator on the K-State Sports Network) who caught a pass for 21 yards against UTEP. Jones and Gronkowski also made receptions from the backfield.

http---static.silverchalice.co-ksu-prod-2015-06-24-KKlein-1435172508363Kyle Klein (brother of Collin Klein) returns in 2015 after sitting out the entire 2014 season due to an injury. The return of Klein is accompanied by the loss of a redshirt from Dominique Heath, who returned a touchdown for 75 yards in the spring game in addition to leading both the Purple and White squads in all-purpose yards within that game. Kansas State also brings in three-star Isaiah Zuber from Georgia and return Zach Reuter and Collin Sexton to the wide receiver corps.

At tight end, the Wildcats appear to have solid options to replace Zach Trujillo in both Cody Small and Dayton Valentine, although neither made any receptions last year. Small was the primary back-up in 2014, seeing game action against UTEP, Oklahoma State, and Kansas.

PROJECTION: Burton and Cook appear to be the best options to start in a two wide receiver set. Davis, Klein, and Heath also appear set to make large contributions at wide receiver in 2015. Small appears to be set to start  at tight end as a result of having more experience than Valentine. 


 

OFFENSIVE LINE

http---static.silverchalice.co-ksu-prod-2015-06-24-Whitehair-1435176500005With all the uncertainty at other positions of offense, the return of four starters on the offensive line provides a well needed sense of stability. At left tackle Kansas State returns Cody Whitehair, a 2014 Second Team All-Big 12 performer with 38 career starts. Whitehair will contend for the First Team All-Big 12 in 2015. Boston Stiverson returns with 18 starts at left guard healthy after having a rod placed in his tibia and four screws placed in his fibula after a gruesome injury in the Alamo Bowl against UCLA. Luke Hayes returns 12 starts  to the right guard position, and Matt Kleinsorge rounds out the returning four starters with 13 starts at right tackle.

Kansas State faces a large task in replacing 2014 First Team All-Big 12 performer and current Pittsburgh Steeler B.J. Finney. Either sophomore Reid Najvar or redshirt freshman Dalton Risner will fill the role, with Najvar seeing game action against UTEP and Oklahoma State.

PROJECTION: Expect Whitehair, Stiverson, Hayes, and Kleinsorge all to start in their respective positions, and look for Najvar to replace Finney on the basis of him having more experience than Risner.

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Trevor Elwell-Cuddy

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