For the first time since before the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, K-State head football coach Bill Snyder and select players met with the media at the Vanier Football Complex on Tuesday afternoon.
Spring practices began last week for the Wildcats, and both Snyder and the players seemed excited to be back.
Snyder walked into the press conference room making jokes with media members. Sophomore center Dalton Risner greeted nearly every individual with a smile and a hello before talking about the status of the 2016 team.
“First and foremost, our players have expressed they are not happy about how last season went, the middle part in particular,” Snyder said. “We have had a substantial group of young guys step up in some leadership roles. I think they have been very active in regards to promoting leadership, but at the same time, the right kind of leadership and the vocal leadership that we talk about all the time. It has stemmed from distaste for not being as good of a football team as they could have been last year.”
The season they were not pleased with was the 6-7 campaign K-State had in 2015. It was the first time since 2008 the Wildcats had a losing record.
The coaches are looking to rebound off of that disappointment. Snyder said the team had as good of a first practice as he could recall on Wednesday.
The appearance of two quarterbacks, freshman Alex Delton and junior Jesse Ertz, really highlighted Tuesday’s press conference.
Both signal callers are coming off injuries from the 2015 season. Ertz was the Wildcats’ starter for the season opener against South Dakota. It took just one play — his first play as a K-State quarterback — to sideline him for the season.
“I could not ask for a more worse start to the season,” Ertz said. “I learned a lot from it. You get a lot tougher going through stuff like that. It was just a whole season of learning again, even though I could not play. I am still in there, and I still knew the game plan. I am still learning things like that.”
Having Ertz back out on the field is encouraging to his teammates.
“It is good to see someone who had to miss so much time to just get out there and be able to play football,” sophomore running back Justin Silmon said. “It is good to see (Ertz) out there having fun. He is making some plays out there, too, so it is good to see that as well.”
Ertz and Delton are not the only two who will be gunning for the starting quarterback position this season.
Returning to K-State’s depth chart is senior quarterback Joe Hubener.
Hubener took the reigns as the starter last season and compiled a stat line of 1,837 yards and nine passing touchdowns on the season.
All three players could be in the mix come Sept. 2, when the Wildcats go to Palo Alto, California, to face Stanford.
“They have each had their moments, up and down,” Snyder said. “In the last couple of practices in particular, (Hubener) has really elevated what he has done in the passing game. (Delton) has really gotten off to an excellent start and had three pretty good days of practice … and then (Ertz) is still kind of working the kinks out, but you have seen the growth in four days, and he has moved along quite well.”
When it comes to the offensive line, Risner will be looked upon to be the rock in the trenches. Last season, he looked up to the likes of Cody Whitehair, a possible first-round pick in the NFL, but this season, Risner, a native of Wiggins, Colorado, will be called upon to lead the offensive line.
“It is a whole different story,” Risner said. “I told you guys that year how I was always trying to prove myself to those guys every day. … Now I am on the other end of the spectrum where I am having to get guys ready to get going.”
All-in-all, not much was revealed at Tuesday’s press conference. There is no starting quarterback yet, and we probably won’t know who wins that job until August.
The updates were very beneficial to help answer some glaring questions facing K-State — like how Ertz is recovering — before the spring game rolls around on April 23.
“It is going well,” Risner said. “Spring practice is rolling right along. We are only four or five practices in, but then again five practices is like 25 percent of spring ball. We have a lot to work on, and spring ball is always kind of humbling. We are not close to being ready, but the work ethic is there and we are working hard and getting ready.”