Kansas State quarterbacks Alex Delton, Jesse Ertz and Joe Hubener have all aged since the start of spring practice more than a year ago, but the starting position they covet remains exactly the same.
It remains up for grabs, with all three players vying for the job.
The position battle has become so repetitive that the start of preseason training camp last week had players thinking of déjà vu.
“Same as always,” said Hubener, a senior from Cheney, Kan. “It’s the same as it has been last spring and last camp and the spring before that. We are all three competing and trying to win the job, but we also want to do whatever we can to help the team.”
For now, K-State coach Bill Snyder insists the quarterback race is close. All three passers are splitting time with the first-string offense, and Snyder says all three could start in the Sept. 2 opener at Stanford.
Coming off the injury woes of last year, which saw Delton and Ertz sustain season-ending knee injuries before the start of Big 12 play and Hubener eventually give way to converted receiver Kody Cook at the Liberty Bowl, developing depth feels as important as designating a starter.
“They are all three getting the same amount of reps right now and we are going to keep it that way for a while,” K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. “Most places, you would say, ‘Well, that is hard to do.’ But we get a lot of reps in practice so that is functional for us.”
There are no plans to change that setup. Not even one player distancing himself from the other two, which may have already occurred.
“Do I have a good idea of who the starter is going to be? Probably,” Dimel said, “but it all depends on how they perform. All three of them are competing every day and it is helping them.”
All three quarterbacks bring something different to the huddle.
Ertz opened last season as starter, but tore the ACL in his right knee on the year’s opening series. A former high school Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa, he offers a superior mix of talent and leadership. Despite rarely playing his first three years on campus, teammates voted Ertz a captain entering his junior season.
He is the presumptive frontrunner.
“There is a little bit of comfort from going through it last year,” Ertz said.
Hubener is the only member of the group with legitimate on-field experience. The senior started 11 games last season, throwing for a team-high 1,837 yards and nine touchdowns, while also adding 613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a runner. That was good enough to help the Wildcats reach bowl eligibility, but his completion percentage of 47.6 and 10 interceptions left a lot to be desired.
To his credit, though, he looked much improved during his last game in front of fans, completing 21 of 25 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
“He has got a whole lot better with a year’s experience,” Dimel said. “That’s what we tell Joe. Our quarterbacks always struggle in their first year. They are so much better their second year as a starter. That is our thing we keep telling him to keep his confidence up.”
Delton, a redshirt freshman, is the most versatile quarterback of the group. He hopes to help K-State with his arms and legs this season.
Like Ertz and Hubener, he hopes to be the starter. But all three are also prepared to help as a backup.
“Last year was a prime example of how you don’t know what can happen on any given day,” Delton said. “We will all be prepared to play.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett