Injuries, position battles among what to watch at Saturday’s spring game

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Freshman quarterback Alex Delton weaves through Missouri State players during the Wildcats' game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 24, 2016. The Cats won 35-0 after ending the game early due to weather. (File Photo by Evert Nelson)

The end of spring football is near. Practices are through, and all that remains is the annual Purple and White spring game. Saturday’s scrimmage will be the first chance for the public to watch the Wildcats play. There will be several things to watch during the game, including injuries and position battles.

Injuries

“We have kind of had a rough spring in regards to injuries,” head coach Bill Snyder said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I don’t talk about those, but it will be evident in the spring game when we hold some guys out.”

The Wildcats are dealing with up to five or six starters on offense and three starters on defense out due to injury. Snyder said many of the injuries on the offensive side of the ball are on the offensive line. Last season’s starting quarterback, senior Jesse Ertz, has been held out of all spring practices and will not play on Saturday.

Snyder also said Tuesday that the injured players will likely not play Saturday if there is any sort of risk.

“The players who are currently out with injuries will be held out for the spring game,” Snyder said. “There are two or three of them who might go up to game day. But if it does, I will not risk it.”

Position battles

The Wildcats have question marks at many positions, including linebacker, safety and even quarterback with Ertz sidelined. Saturday will be the first time players will get to show their worth in a game environment.

At linebacker there are three main candidates trying to replace the departing Charmeachealle Moore and Elijah Lee. According to Snyder, senior linebacker Trent Tanking and junior linebackers Sam Sizelove and Jayd Kirby are the three who stand above the rest so far.

“I like Trent Tanking, I like Jayd Kirby, I like Sam Sizelove. I like all of them, but I think those three probably stand a step above the rest,” Snyder said. “I see them now playing with less tentativeness than before and that’s what comes from practice if you’re diligent about it. I don’t have any qualms about their capabilities, it’s just about being able to get acclimated to playing every single snap every single day, and they’ve done a good job of that.”

At safety the Wildcats return junior Kendall Adams, but they will have to replace the void left by Dante Barnett. Snyder said senior safety Sean Newlan and sophomore safety Denzel Goolsby are the top contenders to take the spot. Junior college transfer Elijah Walker could also eventually be a factor in the battle.

The final notable position battle is at quarterback. With Ertz sidelined, redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Delton has been taking the first-team reps this spring. Redshirt freshman quarterback Skylar Thompson has shown promise and will see his first considerable amount of playing time in front of a crowd.

Notes

The format of Saturday’s game, which has varied in recent years, has yet to be decided by Snyder.

“I will make the final decision after Wednesday’s practice,” Snyder said. “In the past several years we have gone the (No.) 1 offense and the (No.) 1 defense are Purple and the twos, threes and fours are the White unit, but I have changed that up from time to time. It is not as simple as drawing a straw out of a hat. It is defining where we can get the best work done.”

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