After coming up just a drive short earlier this January in the Alamo Bowl, K-State head coach Bill Snyder is gearing up to roll out his 2015 iteration.
A lot has changed since San Antonio, however. A quarterback with the record for a single-season passing yards graduated, a four-year starter at center graduated and possibly the greatest wide-receiver tandem in school history graduated.
With that turnover comes a lot of questions, and almost none of those questions have a clear answer at this time.
How can a team that put up the fourth most yards per game in the 2014 season find their offensive production, when almost all of the players that put up those yards are gone?
Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel plans to answer that question soon by finding out what the identity of this years offense is going to be.
“Each year, the personality of our offense changes and we have an expansive enough of an offense to adjust to whatever the personnel need,” Dimel said. “This year, I am still evaluating it every day. What is our offense going to be like? What is going to be our strengths and weaknesses? Right now, it probably will not be the same as last year’s offense because we lost Jake (Waters), Tyler (Lockett), and we lost Curry (Sexton). Obviously, we wanted to throw the ball with those guys.”
Finding that identity starts with your quarterback. Junior Joe Hubener, sophomore Jesse Ertz, sophomore and junior college transfer Jonathan Banks and true freshman Alex Delton all are vying to take the field as the starting quarterback on Sept. 5.
“I think we are all pretty solid,” Ertz said. “We all might have some qualities that are better than the others. Everyone is pretty good, so we are going to have some good days and some not so good days. Whoever can be the most consistent will have the best chance to win.”
Quarterback is the just the first in the list of positions looking to be filled. Lockett and Sexton put up a combined for 2,574 of the Wildcats 3,736 total receiving yards last season.
Senior Deante Burton and senior Kody Cook lead all return the most receiving yards from last season, but it’s been senior Kyle Klein (who sat our last season with a near-career ending injury) that has really caught the coaches eye.
“I was so impressed with Kyle Klein,” Snyder said. “He had a very fine spring and really came around quite well. Nothing has slowed him down yet so far. I have seen the carry over. Everybody was here during the summer, but after when everybody had that little summer break, I would look out there and his brother would be throwing to him. He has invested in it and is doing well.”
While the absence of Waters, Lockett and Sexton are instantly noticable, the hole left by center B.J. Finney may end up being the most glaring.
The anchor of the offensive line and a leader both vocally and in actions for four years, Finney’s roll in the offense stretched far past his duties at center.
“I think the offensive line will be fine,” Ertz said. “There is veteran leadership with Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson … those guys, and the guys filling spots, are good players. They are competitive and everyone is going to keep raising their level of playing until it is suitable.”
Sophomore Reid Najvar and freshman Dalton Risner were thought to be locked in a two-way battle for Finney’s old spot, until Snyder dropped junior walk-on and Manhattan native Jason Lierz’s name into the fold during his K-State media day press conference.
Finally, just because the starter from this position is one of the few returning to this K-State offense, doesn’t mean his spot still isn’t up in the air.
Junior running back Charles Jones is the top returning rusher from last season returning 540 yards and 13 touchdowns after splitting time last season with graduated DeMarcus Robinson.
Right on Jones’s tail, though, is a crop of young talented running backs all looking to see playing time this fall highlighted by redshirt freshmen Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon.
Also, you can throw in junior All-Big 12 fullback Glenn Gronkowski and redshirt freshman fullback Winston Dimel, who had a stellar spring game, into the mix to get carries in the 2015 season.
“So far, I think we are doing well,” Gronkowski said. “For all the new people we have, I think we are off to a good start. We got a lot of work between the winter and the spring. As of right now, we are doing pretty well.”