5 takeaways from Saturday’s Purple and White Spring Game

Sophomore running back Justin Silmon takes off on a 36-yard run in the fourth quarter of the annual Purple-White Spring Game on April 23, 2016, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Purple team beat the White team 35-21. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

What can you say about a spring game, really? For fans, it’s a football oasis deadlocked in the middle of a long offseason. For the team, it’s the final practice before those long, hot days of summer conditioning.

For me, spring football is like being given diet Pepsi when you ordered a Coke. It’s not really what you want at all, but it’s still carbonated, caffeinated sugar water so you’ll make due.

Having said that, this year’s Purple and White Spring Game did bring several pleasant surprises and possibly started to bring light to several questions connected to the 2016 iteration of the Wildcats. Here are five things I gathered while watching the Purple team’s 35-21 win over the White team Saturday afternoon.

1. The quarterback battle continues to whittle itself down.

Despite what you may have heard in the past, stats can lie. Well, maybe not lie, but they can definitely misrepresent a situation. Take the K-State quarterback battle for instance. Senior Joe Hubener went 21-25 for 319 yards and two touchdowns, out throwing the other quarterbacks combined by more than 50 yards. So slam dunk right? Hubener should be the favorite as a starter this spring.

Well… Not so fast. Even with all of Hubener’s gun-slinging, he was the beneficiary of several spectacular catches from some of the new wideouts (see below) and a decent amount of time to make decisions without having to worry about a blitz from the defense. (K-State does not blitz in spring games.)

Meanwhile, junior Jesse Ertz went 12-18 for 124 yards and a touchdown. Ertz also showed off his speed when he broke off a 45-yard read option run against the first team defense. Ertz’s intangibles are too good for anyone to pass up. He can make all of the throws — including some of the bigger plays that Hubener had — and can beat you with his feet.

Head coach Bill Snyder insists that it is still very much a competition that could go either way, but if I had to put down money on the starter in week one at Stanford, I’d put it on Ertz.

2. The wide receivers are a young, fun bunch who will make an impact come fall.

First things first, sophomore Byron Pringle is the absolute truth. All of the buzz and hype you’ve heard about the Butler County Community College transfer was warranted, and then some.

Part of me thinks the quarterbacks were told to spread it around a little bit more after the first quarter because Pringle was just abusing the White defense, putting up nearly 100 yards before the quarter ended.

But the excitement didn’t stop with Pringle. True freshman Corey Sutton led the way for the White team, pulling in only three catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Zach Reuter pulled down the first touchdown of the game as he climbed the ladder to grab a Jesse Ertz throw. Redshirt freshman Denzel Goolsby only caught one pass, but it was a memorable, circus-type catch at the goal line to set up a score.

The Wildcats are in a much better spot with all of this new blood out there at receiver. They will make a definite and instant impact.

3. Defensively, K-State is in good shape.

It wasn’t in full display because the linebackers were kind of handicapped by not being able to fully go after the quarterback, but this may be one of the better put-together defenses K-State fans have seen in a while.

The defensive line with senior Jordan Willis and freshman Reggie Walker at the ends and junior Will Geary and big freshman Trey Dishon filling up the middle at the tackle spots really held together quite nicely. Walker paired with Willis makes quite an intimidating tandem that should wreak some havoc come fall.

The linebackers are deeper than the Mariana Trench with returns in seniors Will Davis and Charmeachealle Moore and junior Elijah Lee possibly taking their spot as the best linebacking corps in the Big 12 coming into this season.

The secondary returns everything from last year plus the addition of senior safety Dante Barnett, who sat out most of last season with a injury. Having that leadership out there is an instant boost. Positioning is such a big part of a secondary’s success, and having a veteran out there who knows where everyone goes is a big boost.

4. The running back position is one of the bigger question marks going into the summer, and it might be the offensive line’s fault.

K-State fans saw five different running backs on Saturday, and while none of them were disappointing, no one jumped out and really excited me. It was nice to see freshmen Tyler Burns and Terrance Richards make some noise. Burns pounded his way to two touchdowns for the White team.

As for the veteran guys, only sophomore Justin Silmon was able to break away on a run longer than 15 yards. Both senior Charles Jones and sophomore Dalvin Warmack were solid but not very electrifying. Now this could very well be because after a large number of departures due to graduation on the offensive line last year, the Wildcats are in the middle of a big transition period, cycling through several new young options along the line.

Once the offensive line fully pulls itself together and starts to develop an identity together, it will only help what could be a very strong stable of running backs moving forward.

5. A clear answer has not been found in the return game.

Let’s face it, K-State has been spoiled the past couple years in the return game. In the last several seasons, K-State has had some of the best return guys walk through their doors, not just in program history, but in the history of the Big 12. Unfortunately, Morgan Burns and Tyler Lockett are long gone.

Sophomore wide receiver Dominique Heath showed flashes in last year’s spring game of possibly being the returner of the future, but injuries kept Heath away from his potential last year and we haven’t seen the same spark from him since.

In addition to Heath, five other players returned kicks, and none of them racked up over 30 yards on a single return. There are intriguing pieces in place, but none of them stand out from the rest.

Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.