Kansas State’s quarterback debate doesn’t look like it will be settled anytime soon.
One could make a case for Jesse Ertz, Alex Delton or Joe Hubener following the Wildcats’ spring football game on Saturday.
It all depends on what you value.
Ertz seemed to be in the lead when the scrimmage began, as he was named a captain for the 2016 season and took the opening snap for K-State’s purple team, made up of starters. Then Alex Delton showed off his arm and legs with the white team, compiled of backups. But Joe Hubener put up the best stat line, completing 21 of 25 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns while leading both teams on multiple scoring drives.
“It feels pretty good to hear that,” Hubener said afterward. “The thing of it is, it’s a team game, and we had some receivers step up and make some huge plays. That makes that stat line look a lot better.”
By comparison, Ertz was 12 of 18 for 124 yards and a TD, while Delton finished 13 of 21 for 139 yards.
So who will start when K-State heads to Stanford for the season opener in August?
K-State coach Bill Snyder thinks that’s a question for another day.
“About the time it looks like one of them is starting to inch ahead,” Snyder said, “then all of a sudden somebody else steps up and makes some plays and does some things, and has a great practice. That happened again today.”
Ertz and Delton remain the logical favorites to win K-State’s top quarterback job next season. While both missed the majority of last season with knee injuries, Hubener struggled to lead the offense. While starting 11 games, he completed 47.6 percent of his passes for 1,837 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. K-State finished 6-7.
A change to Ertz or Delton represents new hope.
Still, there was no ignoring Hubener’s play on Saturday. Even in a spring game, with no contact and half his throws coming against a second-string defense, he looked improved. He was at his best early, completing his first nine passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, including a 73-yard strike to receiver Byron Pringle.
“That’s not even the best I have seen him play,” running back Dalvin Warmack said. “Joe comes out and plays everyday. I expected that from him.”
It helped that he had new receivers to target, especially Pringle.
A sophomore transfer from Butler County Community College this semester, Pringle was impossible for K-State’s backup cornerbacks to defend. He routinely slipped free on routes, catching nine passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. His highlight came on a post route in the first quarter, when he caught a pass from Hubener at midfield and outran everyone to the end zone.
“He is versatile,” Ertz said of Pringle. “Obviously, he has got the speed to make the catch and run after he makes the catch. He can help us in a lot of different areas. He is a good runner and a good blocker. He has only been in the program a short time. He is only going to get better.”
Corey Sutton also showed off his skills, catching three passes for 85 yards and a touchdown with the white team. Isaiah Zuber made three catches for 22 yards, while also handling some return duties.
“Overall, I think we just have a lot more speed, a lot more athletes,” Ertz said. “We have a lot of young guys that are older and playing more confident. I think that goes a long way.”
Snyder said he was proud of the way K-State’s white team played. The purple team won 35-21, but the outcome was in doubt until the final drive. In most years, the purple team is so far ahead at half that Snyder flips the score and challenges starters to play better in the second half.
That showed him the team has depth. But he would have liked to see more from his starters.
The way Hubener played summed up the spring game in many ways. He was the third quarterback to see action, but he outshined the first two.
“I have been working as hard as anybody,” Hubener said. “I wasn’t happy with how last year went. Hopefully nobody was. I feel like everyone on this team has been working hard to improve, including myself.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett