K-State trying to answer QB question headed into spring game

April 21, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) The race to replace one of the most prolific passers in Kansas State history may boil down to a junior who never started at game at quarterback in high school and a sophomore who was born more than six years after Bill Snyder took over the program.

Joe Hubener was the primary backup to Jake Waters last season, a former walk-on who played wide receiver and defensive back in high school. But based on his experience in 2014, he may have the slight edge for the No. 1 spot heading into Saturday's spring game, which has been moved to Sporting Park in Kansas City because of construction to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Meanwhile, Jesse Ertz is the relative newcomer. He threw for more than 7,300 yards as a prep player in Iowa, breaking the state's career record with 98 touchdown passes.

''Joe and Jesse probably have been the two that have moved forward over most of the rest,'' Snyder said recently. ''One is getting better in game management. Another one is better in handling the accuracy of pure throwing the football. One of them is a little better at running. As far as putting all the skills together, it is hard to assess right now who has all the skill sets to the highest degree.''

Waters certainly had all those skill sets.

After transferring from Iowa Western Community College, he led the Wildcats to bowl games each of the last two seasons. And along with graduated wide receiver Tyler Lockett, Waters helped to form one of the most dangerous pass-catch combinations in school history.

''There are lot of key components we have to replace,'' Hubener said. ''We definitely have younger guys that can step up and narrow that gap. Obviously the returning players will be crucial as well.''

Hubener and Ertz aren't the only ones who hope to turn heads Saturday, though.

Alex Delton is on campus after graduating from Hays (Kansas) High School in the fall, and the 6-foot, 195-pound quarterback may have the most upside of anybody competing for the job. In fact, as reluctant as Snyder is to discuss freshmen, Delton has already caught his eye.

''I think he is going to be in the mix,'' Snyder said, without even using Delton's name.

Finding a replacement for a Division I starter is no easy task, but it especially tough at Kansas State. Not only is Snyder's offense extremely complex, what he demands of the quarterback has grown over the years to encompass a little bit of everything.

You'd better be able to throw the ball, of course. But you'd also better be able to run the read-option, which Snyder was using long before Oregon and others made it popular. Then there are the constant checks at the line of scrimmage, the seemingly endless series of audibles.

It's like trying to do calculus while a 300-pound lineman is trying to tackle you.

All of which makes an intriguing race that will probably last into fall camp.

''The competition forces the best out of everyone,'' Hubener said. ''Jesse and Alex and all the other guys would tell you the same thing. We want that competitive spirit.''

One thing that makes the job a bit easier is having Collin Klein, a former Heisman Trophy finalist, now on the coaching staff. Not only does he have experience in the offense, he is still young enough to be able to easily relate to players.

''It's a pretty big advantage when you have that pool of information and have a resource like that to pull from, especially since he's been in the offense and run the schemes thousands of times,'' Ertz said. ''When you ask him a question, he has a pretty solid answer.''

There is one question that nobody seems to be able to answer, though: Who will be under center when the Wildcats open next season against South Dakota on Sept. 5?

''I never started a game in high school at quarterback,'' Hubener said, ''so this would be my first starting job at quarterback. That's something pretty huge for me.''