Campus Corner

Ask Kellis: Jesse Ertz, Dalton Risner, Denzel Goolsby, Big 12 expansion and Bill Snyder’s shoes

K-State coach Bill Snyder talked with his players during a game last year.
K-State coach Bill Snyder talked with his players during a game last year. The Wichita Eagle

Next Sunday might be the best day of the entire year to buy a newspaper.

Why? It’s the day we run our annual football section, chock-full of stories and previews on your favorite teams. You can still read all of our stories online, of course, but it’s more fun to look at the sections in print. This is a jumbo edition of the paper, which will feature a 2,000-word story on Jesse Ertz and his journey back to the football field and a whole bunch of analysis on the Wildcats and the Big 12 as a whole.

Plus KU, high schools, the Chiefs and the NFL if that’s more your thing. So do yourself a favor and circle Aug. 28 on your calendars. That’s the day you want to buy a paper.

Now, let’s get to your questions. There are plenty of good ones this week. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

Let’s put it this way: It will be a surprise if Ertz isn’t the starter.

K-State coaches have tried to divide snaps evenly among Ertz, Joe Hubener and Alex Delton (likely to help them each develop in case they have to play like last season), but everyone I talk to says Ertz is leading the pack by a wide margin. Nothing will be official until Snyder publicly announces a winner, but all signs point to Ertz.

The top backup spot could go either way between Hubener and Delton.

That would be a nice change, especially with Dalvin Warmack, Charles Jones, Byron Pringle, Joe Hubener and Alex Delton all options to run the wildcat formation, on top of what Justin Silmon and Winston Dimel bring to the backfield.

But I get the sense K-State’s quarterback will always run, regardless of injury risks.

Remember last year when Hubener was the lone quarterback warming up before a road game against Oklahoma State? If ever there was a time to limit the QB run game, it was then. But he still ran. So did Kody Cook when he took over. It’s a big part of the offense. So expect more of it this season.

Like many others, I was surprised to see Dalton Risner working at right tackle instead of center at K-State’s Fan Appreciation Day last week. The position change means the Wildcats will break in a new face at all five positions on the offensive line.

But it makes sense the more I think about it. I’ve heard good things for a while about Reid Najvar. Teammates said he was one of the squad’s best blockers, he was just stuck behind Risner at center. Here’s guessing coaches decided the gap between Najvar and Risner was so small the unit would be better off with Najvar at center and Risner at right tackle. Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey strives to get the best five blockers on the field, regardless of their natural position. That appears to be what he is doing here.

That doesn’t say much for the abilities of K-State’s returning tackles and junior-college transfers. I assumed Breontae Matthews and Abdul Beecham would be better fits. Apparently not, kind of like when B.J. Finney had to switch from center to tackle in the middle of the Alamo Bowl, because of injuries and weak depth.

I doubt it’s a bluff. In past years, K-State has gone with the same starting line throughout preseason practices.

Look for him on defense as a backup safety.

K-State appears to have an abundance of depth at receiver this season, but a lack of depth in the secondary. So Goolsby changed positions.

I don’t think so.

Bill Snyder wants his son, Sean, to follow him as head coach, but few others view him as a viable replacement.

Dana Dimel has publicly said he wants the job, but the offense will need to turn things around before he can be seriously considered.

K-State would probably interview both for the job, but hire another candidate.

If Snyder lasts another 15 years, as you suggest, perhaps a different K-State assistant could emerge, such as Collin Klein, should he eventually return to the staff.

Realistically, the odds are zero. No way Snyder is putting his name on a shoe, even his beloved Nike Cortez.

But that would be awesome. Nike could take his signature (you know, the one he writes in purple at the end of all his famous notes) and plaster it on the side or back of the white shoe. Would sell like hotcakes in Manhattan.

The only difference I expect from K-State’s defense this season is increased turnovers, particularly interceptions. A beaten up secondary played on its heels last season. With Dante Barnett back and Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams a year older, here’s guessing the Wildcats are more aggressive and try to jump a few routes. If D.J. Reed/Cedric Dozier are ready to contribute, those opportunities will increase.

Tom Hayes’ formations and blitz tendencies should be about the same, though.

Side note: I hate the term bend-don’t-break defense. No defensive coordinator tells his team: “We are going bend on defense, but never break?” It’s the equivalent of a golfer admitting he is nothing more than a scrambler. “I’m not going to hit many fairways or greens, and I will be lucky to make a single birdie, but you better believe I’m going to save a lot of pars!” No one aspires to play at that level. If someone describes their own defense as bend-don’t-break, what they’re really saying is they aren’t very good.

Stanford is at the top of the list. The game is in the California bay area, and it’s on a Friday, meaning you can stay the whole weekend afterward to explore San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Alcatraz? Wine country? Silicon Valley? Can’t find those in the Midwest.

After that, I can endorse Oklahoma as a fun place to watch a game. Great atmosphere and a big stadium. Oklahoma City is also nearby.

Waco isn’t the coolest, but Baylor in November sounds good. TCU in December would be an even better escape from the Kansas cold. Lots of good food and entertainment in Texas, too.

West Virginia is the type of venue you should at least see once, but the area seems less unique with each visit.

Iowa State ranks last for me, based solely on the never-ending drive from Manhattan to Ames. It’s a cool place once you get there, but that stretch between Kansas City and Des Moines is brutal.

1. Bill Snyder: No explanation necessary.

2. Cliff Rovelto: K-State’s track teams are always good.

3. Jeff Mittie: Women’s hoops appears on the rise.

4. Brad Hill: On track to become the baseball coach with the most wins in school history.

5. Suzie Fritz: Volleyball regularly makes NCAA Tournament.

6. Bruce Weber: Last two years have been a struggle.

That’s all I care to rank. Apologies to rowing, golf, tennis and soccer.

Things seem to be about the same on the day-to-day front. But it’s also summer, with very little going on.

I’m interested to see how things change in the Big 12 board meetings without Schultz. He was an active and outspoken participant for the conference and he had strong opinions on things like expansion. Those opinions are sure to change under new leadership.

Location, more than anything.

Yeah, UConn is kind of close to West Virginia, which would give the Mountaineers a travel partner. Still, Storrs isn’t exactly easy to get to.

And once you get there, the Huskies don’t seem to have as much to offer as other expansion candidates. They are fantastic at basketball, which would be a plus. But they don’t have the best football tradition. Also, what kind of television market would they bring with them? The state of Connecticut? Meh. I doubt they can deliver big ratings in New York or Boston, as some have suggested. ESPN is nearby. Does that help their chances?

This isn’t to knock UConn. It is a good school with a good athletic department that can make a conference stronger. But the same can be said about Houston, BYU, Memphis, Cincinnati and seemingly everyone else in the mix. And those schools are all better geographical fits than UConn.

I don’t pay much attention to that particular doomsday scenario.

Let me explain why: if the Big 12 was going to breakup, it would have happened already. During the first and second rounds of conference realignment, all of the Big 12’s major players had opportunities to leave. Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could have gone West. The Oklahoma schools could have gone East. There was endless talk of the Big 12’s death. But it didn’t happen.

It’s fun to talk about Texas going independent or Oklahoma joining the SEC, but those moves would hurt both schools in the long run. They can flex their muscles in the Big 12, and the conference provides them an attractive path to college football’s playoff. No one will cower to Oklahoma in the SEC. Texas would have to fight USC, UCLA and Oregon for power in the Pac-12. Travel would be a nightmare for all sports other than football. And what other conference will let Texas keep the Longhorn Network?

Look at this way: are any of the four schools that left the Big 12 better off in their new conferences? Texas A&M has gone 17-15 in the SEC, Nebraska’s Big Ten football schedule will put you to sleep, Missouri’s basketball team is in disarray and Colorado is the worst football team in the Pac-12 South.

The teams in the Big 12 benefit from being in a league together. It’s the best situation for all involved. Deep down, I think they realize that. At some point, I suspect the league will extend its Grant of Rights.

Not very well.

A lot of the voters in the Big 12 preseason poll are beat writers, meaning they only truly monitor one team. They can make an educated case on the teams they don’t see everyday, but that’s all it is. Preseason predictions, in general, are a crapshoot. Coaches don’t let media watch practice. Honestly, it’s mostly guess work until every team has played a few games.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

  Comments