It’s time for another edition of Ask Kellis.
The start of K-State’s football season is one day way. The Wildcats take on South Dakota at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and I’m predicting them to roll to an easy 40-10 victory. It seems many of you are expecting the same, as no one asked about the opener.
So let’s move right past that and dive into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.
The Vegas oddsmakers say seven is the over/under, and it’s easy to see why they think that way.
South Dakota, Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech should be wins. So should Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia, though the Red Raiders and Mountaineers could pose problems.
Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor all look like losses. Amazingly, those five games are back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the middle of the schedule.
Seven wins, five losses. That’s the Vegas math. A victory in the bowl game gives K-State the over at eight.
But one thing I’ve learned about covering Bill Snyder is that outsiders tend to set their expectations a tad low. The Wildcats always win a game or two as underdogs. My rule of thumb is to make my projection for the season and then add a win (or two) to it. K-State usually plays well against Texas. Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU all visit Manhattan. Oklahoma State looked beatable last night. The Wildcats could win some of those games. To me, the swing games are at Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. If K-State holds serve elsewhere, those outings will ultimately define the season.
The true over/under is probably eight.
As for running backs ...
No. There are simply too many mouths to feed in K-State’s backfield. Jesse Ertz and Charles Jones will get most of the carries, but Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon will see the ball, too. And don’t forget about fullbacks Glenn Gronkowski and Winston Dimel. Or a backup quarterback coming in to run the wildcat formation.
K-State will use a large committee to run the ball this season. Overall production should be good, and improved from a year ago, but individual numbers will be low. The team’s leading rusher may not get 750 yards.
I expect Alex Delton to play sporadically throughout the season, possibly leading the wildcat formation or providing a change of pace when the opportunity arises. Maybe he lines up at receiver or running back for the occasional trick play, too. Think Daniel Sams from two years ago or Collin Klein as a freshman.
Based on my conversations, K-State coaches really like Delton. In a perfect world, they would redshirt him, as Snyder rarely plays freshman quarterbacks. But he arrived a semester early, looked good in the spring and is now the co-backup quarterback with Joe Hubener behind Ertz. Delton is a gifted runner, and I’m guessing offensive coordinator Dana Dimel would rather use that skill than keep him on the sideline.
At K-State’s media day, Dimel said he would likely create special packages for the backup and third-string quarterbacks this season. He wants to use them in some capacity. Plus, Snyder said there is a “strong possibility” three quarterbacks play against South Dakota.
If Ertz suffers an injury and is unable to play, I think Hubener will get the nod because of his experience. But Delton brings a lot to the table. I think he will play. Jonathan Banks finished fourth in the quarterback competition and decided to redshirt, so only a string of quarterback injuries will put him on the field.
My money is on Delton, but if he doesn’t get the call it will be Hubener or Jones. Hubener is a powerful runner, so he makes sense around the goal line, kind of like what Oklahoma used to do with Blake Bell. Jones ran the wildcat last season and had early success, but he is not a threat to pass and defenses know it. Once teams loaded the box against him he did very little.
Banks addressed this topic at K-State’s media day, saying that if he did not win the starting quarterback job right away he would rather wait his turn (redshirt and try to rise up the depth chart in future years) than switch positions. He went to junior college to play quarterback and seems hesitant to try receiver or running back, so he probably stays where he is even with Skylar Thompson on the way.
Well, let’s see. He’s a sophomore, which means his maximum start number is 39. He would hit that number by staying healthy and leading K-State to bowl games in three consecutive seasons. I suppose he is only guaranteed one start, but he steamrolled the other quarterbacks during preseason practices so Snyder should give him a long leash.
This is a tough one. I would maybe set the over/under at 20. Injuries are part of the job for every K-State quarterback. Can he play through pain the way Collin Klein and Jake Waters did? He tore his ACL in high school. You can’t guess injuries. Then there is competition. Alex Delton, presumably, is going to keep pushing him. And Skylar Thompson (a four-star recruit) is on his way. Who knows? Maybe Ertz lights up defenses and turns pro early?
That would get my vote, too. Glenn Gronkowski is a junior fullback coming off a season in which he was First Team All-Big 12. The assumption was that he would run unopposed and retain his starting job. I was very surprised to see the word “OR” next to his name.
Now, it’s possible K-State coaches listed him on even footing with Winston Dimel as a motivational tool, but Dimel had a strong spring game and impressed in the summer. At K-State’s lone open practice last month, Dimel occasionally lined up in single-back formations during scrimmages. He is talented. Coaches like him and plan to use him. It will be interesting to see if his father, the offensive coordinator, thinks up any new ways to get him the ball.
Given that he is a walk-on and a true freshman, I expect Hunter Knoblauch to redshirt. Maybe he sees action on special teams, but the traditional path for K-State walk-ons is to redshirt. Teammates had positive things to say about him this summer, though. In time, he may make an impact.
I would love it if Snyder went all Marshawn Lynch after a game and said “I’m just wearing this windbreaker so I won’t get fined.”
Justin Silmon could become the leader of the backfield as he matures. The coaching staff really likes him. Still, Charles Jones will lead the way for now.
K-State should have one of the better defenses in the Big 12. The secondary is loaded with experience and the defensive line knows how to stop the run. Pass rush could be a concern without Ryan Mueller. Linebacker is a bit of a mystery. Will Davis is back, but he was only mediocre last season. Elijah Lee is an up-and-comer, but he hasn’t played linebacker full-time at this level. My expectation is for K-State to be good (maybe even very good) on defense, but not great.
Does Tanner Wood count as an unknown? The redshirt sophomore was one of the top prospects in his recruiting class, but the defensive end did little playing on special teams last season. So let’s say he qualifies. He is listed as the backup behind Marquel Bryant, but I think he comes in and makes his fair share of plays. By all accounts, he had a great camp and is ready to contribute. I also like Trent Tanking, a former walk-on, at linebacker.
I could sit here and say Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Oregon … But that’s no fun. Hopefully some darkhorses rise up and make a run for one of the four playoff spots. I will be keeping an eye on Georgia, Clemson, Arizona State and maybe even Boise State.