EFAQAW III Derek Larson August 31, 2015 Wildcat First Down A coworker recently asked me how K-State will look this football season. I paused for a moment, mindfully clutching my Powercat tumbler, attempting to succinctly word my prediction for the season. As a Wildcat in the land of corn, I know that my opinion may be what some Nebraskans take as gospel in regard to K-State. Thoughts gathered and knitted expertly in my mind, I replied, “Eh, it will be interesting.” Well, they don’t call me a wordsmith for nothing, people. Truth told, “interesting” is as strong of an opinion as I can form about this team. Could this be a rebuilding season that sees the Wildcats barely pursuing bowl contention as the season winds down? It’s possible. But, this Wildcat team could also – as it has many times in the Bill Snyder era – be a surprise, crushing the title dreams of other Big 12 squads and finishing toward the top of the league. With six starters gone on offense and five missing on defense, there are gaps to fill and questions to answer. Today, we’ll attempt to address a few of those via everyone’s* favorite annual blog: Every Frequently Asked Question A Wildcat. *In this instance, “everyone” refers to my mom and my wife. With kickoff nearing, do we know who will start at quarterback? You just had to lead with that question, didn’t you? Two years ago, I addressed this question by saying, “…calling the picture murky would be unfair, as murk can’t live up to the sort of mystery that coach Bill Snyder has cloaked this quarterback race in.” Approximately 15 minutes after the blog posted, Snyder announced that Jake Waters would start. Bested by a senior citizen yet again. Word out of Wildcat camp is that sophomore Jesse Ertz has been taking the majority of snaps with the first team offense during practice. Ertz (whose last name sounds a lot like the sound I make when I get out of bed in the morning) started with the first team offense in the spring game. He came to K-State after setting high school passing records in Iowa and earning honorable mention All-American honors from Parade magazine. (Note: That magazine is not as fun as it sounds.) Ertz’s competition comes in the form of Joe Hubener, Alex Delton, and Jonathan Banks. Hubener saw limited time while backing up Waters last season, but showed some ability to make plays with his legs and his arm, rushing for 142 yards and passing for 235. Delton is a true freshman from Hays, Kan., but jump-started his collegiate career by graduating early and joining the Wildcats in the spring. Banks signed with K-State after spring ball had concluded, making some fans wonder whether he was a measure of last resort. All members of the quartet bring dual-threat ability, but lack of experience brings Johnny Kaw-sized question marks. No matter who starts game one, there’s a strong chance that more than one Wildcat will earn a starting nod this season. After all, Snyder has shuffled in the past. In 2001, it was Ell Roberson and Mark Dunn. In 2004, it was Dylan Meier and Allen Webb. In 2005, Allen Evridge was tossed into the mix. Most recently, Carson Coffman and Collin Klein battled for the helm. Snyder might change course due to performance, or he might just do it as part of a gameplan. In 2010, Coffman had started every game leading up to a battle with Texas. Then, out of nowhere, Snyder plugged in Klein and had the Wildcats battle for victory on the ground. Klein threw four passes the entire game, but he rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns. K-State won 39-14. Some fans, perhaps reasonably, thought that K-State might have a new starting quarterback. Nay. Coffman was back under center the next week. Who should be under center? Well, dear reader, you’re asking the right guy. After all, my record for predicting these things is staunch and unblemished. Leading up to the 2011 season, I boldly predicted that the Wildcats would see great success behind their new backfield of quarterback Justin Tuggle and running back Bryce Brown. That team climbed as high as 10th in the nation and finished 10-3, thanks in part to its fancy new backfield… of quarterback Collin Klein and running back John Hubert. At least I got the “success” part right. Okay, quarterback is up in the air. Will “QB Wildcats” at least have talented skill position players to hitch the pigskin to? Yes… Well, probably… Is “we hope so” an appropriate answer? With Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton no longer around to shake defenders out of their cleats and make inconceivable Spider Man catches, pass catching duties will fall on a number of guys looking to make names for themselves. Kody Cook, Kyle Klein, Andre Davis, and Deante Burton are all upper classmen hoping to see the ball come their way. If you’re looking for potential game-breaking explosion, however, you may need to find Dominique Heath on the depth chart. (Hint: he’s climbing.) The redshirt freshman tallied 8,413 return yards* in the spring game and could provide the Wildcats with the next model in their series of dangerous WR/return men. *Number approximate In the backfield, fullback Glenn Gronkowski could be in line for a larger role. Little Gronk has shown good hands and decent speed in his first two seasons, making plays like a simple leak out of the backfield seem terrifying for opposing defenses. He’ll also have plenty of chances to block for a two, or even three-headed running back as the Wildcats return focus to moving the ball on the ground. This may sound like a nightmare for the equipment manager, but the Wildcats hope that senior Charles Jones, and redshirt freshmen Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon prove even scarier for opponents. Jones has the most experience, racking up 540 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season while backing up Demarcus Robinson and taking snaps in Wildcat-formation packages. Meanwhile, Warmack earns nostalgia’s vote, as both his size (5-8, 187 lbs.) and his elusiveness evoke memories of a certain Wildcat alum who wore number 43.* Silmon, a former walk-on, rushed for 65 yards in the spring game, which led both teams and helped vault him in to the rotation at running back. *Apologies if that link led you down a wormhole of Sproles highlights. Approximately 784 hours of my life have been lost due to such situations. Okay, so the offense sounds a bit questionable. Is the defense in better shape? Yes. While a handful of starters are gone, the defense returns several names that you’ve heard echoing through Bill Snyder Family Stadium on game day. Dante Barnett, once the freshman forced into duty by a Ty Zimmerman injury, is now a senior picked for preseason All-Big 12 honors by prognosticators everywhere. Travis Britz will look to pick up where he left off after an injury cut his 2014 honorable mention All-Big 12 season short. At the corners, Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel form one of the conference’s top duos and may deserve a tandem nickname. Something like “Thunder and Lightning” – with McDaniel’s tendency to crush bones and Burns’ quick feet – while cringe-worthy, is fitting. (Please, readers, come up with something better than that.) Meanwhile, the defensive backs will benefit from Jordan Willis and Elijah Lee chasing down quarterbacks from the edges. The defense will miss guys like Randall Evans and Ryan Mueller, but you’re still looking at a unit that won’t be charitable when it comes to giving away yards. I heard talk about Sean Snyder taking over head coaching duties once Bill retires. Is that actually going to happen? Do I look like John Currie? Despite speculation, and Snyder’s campaigning for his son over the off-season, the only person who has an idea of how things may play out once the architect of K-State football bids adieu is the guy carrying a copy of the athletic department budget in his pocket. Even though he has done some amazing things for K-State, bringing jaw-dropping facilities that few ever imagined seeing in Manhattan, Currie has taken flack in his time at AD. Some fans still have not forgiven him for the way the Frank Martin basketball era ended, and the current tumult surrounding the hoops program has not helped. For a collegiate director of athletics, hiring a football coach is huge. Football brings the bucks, and Wildcat fans are well aware of how quickly things can turn if a hire goes wrong. When Snyder returned to “calm the waters,” he returned to a football stadium that often bore a hefty number of empty seats when the second half of a game arrived. K-State football returned to prominence. Will Currie entrust the responsibility of proving that K-State isn’t a “one-coach program” to the younger Snyder? Or will he bring in his own guy? Time will tell. Or maybe it won’t. I’m not entirely convinced that Bill Snyder will retire again. Are we sure that he’s human? Did we miss any important questions? Yes. Just one: Can Saturday hurry up already? Questions or none, it’s K-State football.