The spring game is fun in theory. It’s a chance for the team to get out on the field in a game environment, and gives football fans the chance to go see their team in action while actual football games are still months away.
But that’s about all. Even the head coach in charge of it all, Bill Snyder, admitted that can be “pure vanilla,” at times. It can be difficult to leave with any real takeaways when it’s essentially a public practice.
To make things worse the Wildcats were riddled with injuries, as many as 13 players were held out of Saturday’s game making it even harder to tell what this team truly looks like.
But, with that being said, there were some positives and negatives that came to light during Saturday’s game no matter how indicative they actually are of where this K-State football team is at.
Rushing attack is a big strength with Alex Barnes leading the way
A running back at Kansas State has not produced a 1,000 yard season since John Hubert back in 2013. It looks like 2017 might be the year that changes. Redshirt sophomore Alex Barnes looks like the real deal. Barnes came on strong at the end of last season before injuries sidelined him.
Barnes picked up where he left off Saturday. He ran for 69 yard and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. While it may have been against the Wildcats’ second string defense, Barnes looks like an experienced back capable of reaching the 1,000 yard mark.
The problem with that statement is getting carries among the Wildcats stable of talented runners. Junior running back Justin Silmon had a fairly quiet spring game but did finish with 32 yards and a touchdown and had a long run called back early on because of a penalty. Sophomore quarterback Alex Delton also showed off his wheels with 78 yards and a touchdown while playing with the two-hand touch rule for quarterbacks.
That’s not even to mention the Wildcats’ top rusher from a year ago senior quarterback Jesse Ertz and sophomore running back Dalvin Warmack, who were both held out of the game due to injuries.
Skill positions will be a strength
The Wildcats have depth at their skill positions, and not just depth, talented depth that is capable of producing. Unlike past spring games, the Wildcats did not have a huge drop-off offensively when going from the first string to the second string.
Redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson might have the best arm on the team (see below) and he’s the the third string quarterback. Many receivers looked capable of making plays Saturday whether they were on the purple or white team. And that didn’t even include two likely starters come fall in junior wide receivers Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath.
Sophomore receivers Isaiah Zuber and Corey Sutton looked good, Sutton made a tough grab in the first quarter for 39 yards. Highly touted sophomore transfer Carlos Strickland II played with the first team and showed promise.
Skylar Thompson can sling it
After the scrimmage Snyder reiterated that Thompson is the Wildcats third-string quarterback at this point in time. If Thompson keeps throwing the ball like he showed he can Saturday that might not last long.
Thompson led the white offense on two successful early drives against the first-string defense. Thompson made some very good throws including a perfectly placed 39-yard throw to Sutton. He finished 10-of 17 with 112 yards through the air.
Thompson has less experience than Delton and Ertz with the offense, but his arm just might be better than both. Now this doesn’t mean Thompson is likely to see much playing time come fall, he’s the third-stringer for a reason and likely still has many things to learn before he can lead a Snyder offense.
But Wildcat fans should be excited about the future at the quarterback position as long as Thompson is in the mix at the least he will provide some quality depth and competition.
Defense might need work, but then again, maybe not
The purple defense looked a little shaky at times against the second-string offense. The white offense drove down the field several times Saturday especially early on. But in the end, there were not many points allowed. The purple defense did not allow the white offense to touch the end zone.
However there were some problems. Even though it is a spring game and there is little incentive for a pass rush or backfield pressure because of the quarterback inability to get tackled, there was not much push on the defensive line.
Part of that can be drawn up to the absence of senior defensive tackle Will Geary, the hole left by Jordan Willis, and the shuffling of players along the line. But the quarterbacks still had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and throw the ball.
There was also a notable lack of playmakers in the middle of the field with Elijah Lee and Charmeachealle Moore no longer on the time. It will take time for the Wildcats to get experience and find the right group to man the linebacker spots.
The secondary was solid and didn’t allow many big plays while also picking off three passes. The only real question mark is at one of the safety spots, but senior Sean Newlan and sophomore Denzel Goolsby look more than capable of manning down the spot.
In the end, the defense looks like it will be solid come fall, but could certainly use a few adjustments in certain areas.