Young guys stepping up on K-State offense

By Maria McIlwain

With the spring game on Saturday, Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder is seeing something different every day from his team.

He said the defense is playing at a higher level than the offense, but that is partly because of injuries. Saturday’s game kicks off at 1:10 p.m.

“The defense has caught up with the offense, and the offense is struggling right now,” he said. “And that really has happened over the past week.

“The positive side of that is we get a little more work with our depth, with our twos and our threes. Hopefully that will pay off because we do need to establish depth.”

Snyder said the inconsistencies on offense are specific to each position.

He wants to see improvements across the board, but singled out the passing game.

“If I made a collective statement prior to yesterday’s practice, I would have said we need to enhance the passing game, and our running game’s coming along pretty well,” Snyder said. “But, unfortunately, I watched practice yesterday, and I can’t say that. So we have to improve on virtually everything that we’re doing.”

Jesse Ertz, the presumptive starting quarterback, has missed all of spring after shoulder surgery, opening the door for Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson to showcase their skills. Delton has been primarily working with the first team, while Thompson has been taking snaps with the second. Delton played in four games in his freshman campaign last year, rushing for 116 yards and throwing for 11 on 3-of-6 passing. He ran for a touchdown against Florida Atlantic, and completed all three of his passes against Missouri State. Thompson, a redshirt freshman, was a standout on the scout team last year.

“Somebody asked me this morning, did I project Jesse to be the No. 1 quarterback, and would it be competitive,” Snyder said.” I like Alex Delton. He’s done a nice job and had some good playing time for us last year, productive playing time. But in all reality, Jesse probably is the odds-on favorite right now.”

Delton thinks he has made progress throughout the spring and is excited to take what he learned and carry it into fall workouts.

“I feel like this spring has been my best spring and my best offseason,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made huge strides just from a confidence standpoint, from an experience standpoint. I feel like I’ve made huge strides, and I feel like as an offense, we’ve made strides, minus some injuries … I’m excited after this week of spring ball is over, leading into the fall, just building off this spring into the summer, into the fall, and I think we can do special things.”

Snyder has been impressed with Delton’s dedication while he’s seen consistent improvement from Thompson.

“He’s another one of those young guys, in a different way, is similar to what I always said about Jordan Willis,” Snyder said of Delton. “We always talk about his intensity and being into every second of everything that you do, and Alex is very much that way … Skylar’s still a young pup, still has a lot of growth to make, some of that decision-making stuff. Some of the same stuff, but he’s not where Alex is in that respect, but you see him gaining each and every day. He’s a young guy that can do some nice things, and you really start to feel super about it, and then all of a sudden, he does something that makes no sense whatsoever, and it brings you back to Earth.”

Thompson is grateful for his first spring practices but said redshirting was beneficial.

“I think it’s benefitted me both on and off the field, getting to see the defense,” he said. “Seeing other offenses and how they work and the scheme for us, I think really expanded my football IQ, and I’m thankful for that.”

Thompson has quickened his processing time but said adjusting to how fast the receivers are, as well as throwing in the pocket have been challenges.

“I still try to be able to create plays,” Thompson said. “I thought that’s a big reason of what brought me here was being able to extend plays and scramble and when things are breaking down, make something out of nothing … as spring ball has progressed, things have slowed down, and I’ve made some plays.”

Once the passing game improves, Ertz, Delton and Thompson will have weapons at his disposal at wide receiver. Byron Pringle is a proven choice, averaging just over 16 yards per catch on 35 receptions last year. Dominique Heath was also a popular target, averaging 9.7 yards per catch on a team-leading 45 receptions. Snyder has seen wide receiver Carlos Strickland progress as the spring goes on.

“He’s got some capabilities,” Snyder said. “He can advance the ball when he catches it, when it’s thrown to him. His biggest issue is, kind of like I was talking about with the linebackers, getting enough repetition to get acclimated to and feel comfortable with assignments, basically and what he does and the nuances of each assignment. And so he’s always doing the right thing in the best possible way that he can. It just takes reps, and he’s going to need some more.”

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