Jesse Ertz and Kansas State have won together. Now they want to win big.
All eyes will be on Ertz, a senior dual-threat quarterback, this season as the Wildcats attempt to build on their 9-4 record from a year ago. An experienced offense returns, and so does a seasoned passer. That’s typically a combination for success in Manhattan.
The last six times K-State football coach Bill Snyder returned his leading passer from the previous season, the Wildcats won at least nine games, piling up 11 victories in 1998 with Michael Bishop, in 2000 with Jonathan Beasley, in 2002 and 2003 with Ell Roberson and again in 2012 with Collin Klein. In 2014, they won nine games with Jake Waters.
Ertz completed 152 of 264 passes for 1,755 yards and nine touchdowns last season, adding 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He put up those numbers while playing through a shoulder injury that needed off-season surgery to repair. Now healthy, he’s looking for more in what will be his final college season, unless the NCAA grants him an eligibility waiver to make up for his lost sophomore season when he tore the anterior-cruciate ligament on his right knee in the first game.
He wants to make the most of it.
Ertz discussed those topics and more in a wide-ranging interview:
Do you expect to regain a year of eligibility, or could this be your last season of college football?
At this point, I am not expecting to have another year. Right now, this is the last one. I will consider it a present if it’s not. We will apply for one and see what we can do. But I have gone from expecting it to having no reason to expect it. It’s definitely not a sure thing.
Why don’t you like your chances?
I have heard some things about it and how tough it is to get one, especially if you redshirt. If you redshirt, it is very hard to get one. Dante Barnett (a former K-State defensive back) got one because he grayshirted and didn’t redshirt. It is odd it would matter, but it somehow does. I know how difficult they are to get. I know of a lot of people who tried to get them and didn’t. Right now, I’m not counting on it.
I know you don’t love it when analysts say you have deceptive speed. Does that description still annoy you?
I have kind of gotten over it, but there was a time coming out of high school when it did. I averaged more than 11 yards per carry in high school and I was a sprinter on the track team, then I get here and everyone thinks you can’t run because you are tall or you aren’t ripped. You don’t look like you just came out of a Nike factory.
I have the school record for quarterbacks in the 300-yard shuttle test (a drill in which you run 60 yards in five different directions, rest for a minute and repeat). It’s a conditioning test and it’s hard. It’s about three minutes long. I’m not going to outrun Lamar Jackson, but I don’t feel like I run badly, by any means.
What probably annoys me more is when you do something good and people follow that up with, well, Bill Snyder is just drawing the most out of you. That is another backhanded remark I get a lot. It’s weird. Apparently we at K-State are terrible athletes and we are only good for those reasons.
People carry over high school ratings way too much. If you go to Kansas State, you were under-recruited. If you go to Kansas State and you have success, it’s because of the coaching. But if you are Baker Mayfield and you go to Texas Tech and you are where he is now it is because everyone missed on him and he is this great athlete that fell through the cracks. We are a pretty fun team and we make fun of that a lot. Well, the only reason you’re decent whatsoever is because of your coaches. We haven’t had a decent player here in 20 years, apparently. We don’t take it real serious. It doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. But you hear it a lot.
One thing you get lots of respect for is your stiff arm. Where did you learn to repel tacklers like that?
Running the ball, for the most part, is just instinctive. I wouldn’t say anyone taught me how to stiff arm. It’s not like I watched YouTube videos on it. You just run and if someone is trying to tackle you, you have got to do what you have got to do to stay on your feet.
You ran the ball a team-high 183 times last season. Do you think you that will happen again this season?
I expect to run the plays as called. It is just kind of situational. If it’s third-and-2 and we have a loaded box and we can’t block everyone, then that’s the reason they are having the running back block. There is a method to the madness. I have no expectations on that whatsoever. I am just going to play to win.
With that type of workload in mind, does it take a certain level of toughness to play quarterback at K-State?
We obviously aren’t built like Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon. That is apparently the eye test we fail, what with our deceptive speed and all. But, obviously, we are asked to do a lot. We are playing running back as well as being a passer. It is tough, but we are all competitors and I have no problems doing it. I enjoy it. I loved last season and I look forward to next season. I have no complaints.
Historically, K-State quarterbacks make huge strides as second-year starters. Why do you think that is?
Our offense has a lot to it. We have quarterback run game, run game, pistol, shotgun, option. There are just so many things to learn. To be good at all those things and to operate quickly and efficiently, experience is just huge. To come back and know what you are seeing and facing in game situations, you can’t put a value on that.
K-State returns eight starters on offense. How many points can you score this season?
It’s hard to say. People want to go by points per game a lot, but teams don’t often hit their points per game against us, because we are holding the ball longer and things like that. The pace of the game changes a lot and that is going to have a big impact on the game and the points. I don’t really care about points per game. I only care about how many possessions we have and how many times we score. Every possession, I want to put it in the end zone. A field goal is disappointing. No offense in history has gone an entire season scoring all touchdowns, so it’s not going to happen, but it’s the way you have got to approach it. I think there is no reason why we shouldn’t be better. We have all been here and played together. We should be improved.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett