Kansas State names Jesse Ertz starting quarterback for 2015 opener and we know … only a little more than that

Much will be written about new Kansas State starting quarterback Jesse Ertz in the coming weeks, months and more than likely years, given his status as a sophomore, and presumably the majority of the words will be fair if not accurate. When he struggles, his game will be taken apart and evaluated on a deeper basis. When he performs well, he will be praised in glowing terms. And when evaluators just don’t know … well, that’s when they’ll be unfair due to bias more than likely, but hey, at least they’ll be informed by the good times and the bad.

Right now, one doesn’t have a lot to go on. I appreciate that someone else took the time to examine his high school film, as Ian Boyd did here, and whether Boyd’s early take is a strong one or not, at least it’s moderately encouraging. Ertz is fast, but not too fast. He makes good throws, but not spectacular throws. He generally reads a defense well, but doesn’t excel at it.

Good, not great.

A team could do worse than having a player line up under center who is steadily solid. Think about the kinds of players in Big 12 history who never overwhelmed you with athletic ability but simply performed well, and you can begin to see the potential in “above average.” Major Applewhite. Todd Reesing. Josh Heupel. Clint Chelf. Seneca Wallace. These were not true athletic specimens with huge frames and cannon arms who could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but they were all known as winners. That came through steady performance, in big moments and in small ones.

To a man, the praises sung about Ertz have been in that vein. And while you can chalk that up to the guy being a consistent performer only in comparison to his competition for the starting spot, the fact that he beat our three other Div. I caliber quarterbacks (in theory) is again at least moderately encouraging. It may mean he’s only better than the quarterbacks on this roster, but it may also mean he’s better than a similar percentage of quarterback in the nation … that he’s a more consistent performer (at least in practice) than 75 percent of the quarterbacks in the country.

Again, this is the optimistic view. The flip side to that coin is that all four of them are rough around the edges and almost completely inexperienced in game situations and Ertz only stands out in comparison to them (and perhaps only because of familiarity with the system, a favorite Snyder crutch for making decisions). Perhaps he is thoroughly average or worse. Perhaps he’s a guy like a an Allan Evridge, a guy who just cannot elevate the performance of an offense in general and his ceiling is to not be a hindrance to the players around him.

This is, of course, not ideal. The sane amongst the observers will hope for a high ceiling while not necessarily expecting it. Time (as always) will tell.

What’s potentially more interesting about the quarterback decision, such as it was, is the effect it has on the depth chart, both for 2015 and for future seasons.

Ertz beat out former walkon junior Joe Hubener, later summer JUCO addition Jonathan Banks, and true freshman early enrollee Alex Delton.  This is a sophomore who did this, so his performance, if it rises to an acceptable level, will affect the playing time and coaches’ handling of every other quarterback on the roster … for the next three years.  That is significant.

Hubener, as last year’s primary backup to Jake Waters, probably has a more clearly defined role at this point than the other two also-rans in this derby, and that is of a career backup. Head coach Bill Snyder preaches no limitations, but this is the likeliest outcome from here on out for Hubener, barring Ertz stinking up the joint the next few weeks … which is not outside the realm of possibility, but let’s not think about that. The plan, as it were, is not for Ertz to stink it up the next four weeks. The plan is for Ertz to perform, making Hubener what he always was, which is a nice backup who can perform admirably when called upon.

The fun analysis truly centers on Delton and Banks, two guys who the staff apparently has very different plans for. Banks, a true sophomore, has been tabbed for a redshirt. Delton, who as mentioned before is a true freshman, has not been. The program has further secured a verbal commitment from local prep standout Skylar Thompson, a dual-threat quarterback who like Delton has been considered a major recruiting win for the staff with tremendous upside.

What this effectively means is the depth charts for the next few years, if they remain unchanged, look like this:

2015
Ertz (so.)
Delton (fr.) OR Hubener (jr.)
Banks (redshirt, so.)

2016
Ertz (jr.)
Delton (so.) OR Hubener (sr.)
Banks (so.)
Thompson (redshirt, fr.)

2017
Ertz (sr.)
Delton (jr.)
Banks (jr.) OR Thompson (fr.)

2018
Delton (sr.)
Banks (sr.) OR Thompson (so.)

2019
Thompson (jr.)

 

Of course these depth charts NEVER remain unchanged. They are fluid, for one, based upon performance. Kids also move to other positions, and transfer, and get into trouble, and … it just never plays out the way it’s mapped out. That said the coaching staff HAS to plan ahead, be it in assuming attrition or not. And given the current roster makeup at the position, that essentially gives the staff two options whereas Delton is concerned. Redshirt him, or don’t.

The above scenario assumes no redshirt for Delton. It has the benefit of giving Ertz more direct competition, seeing that Hubener hasn’t emerged as a true challenger yet as a junior (Ertz won the competition this summer decisively) and isn’t likely to in the coming months, while Delton will more than likely continue to grow and develop as a passer and in his command of the offense. The decision not to redshirt also further strengthens the roster in the short term, as Delton is an explosive athlete at the position and can provide a spark off the bench in certain situations. Finally, it helps give you flexibility with Banks, an athlete who some have speculated can move to another position (this is not an unreasonable projection … in terms of recruiting video, Delton seems to have a “livelier” arm than Banks with equal upside on the ground). Here’s that depth chart with Banks moving to another position like wide receiver or defensive back:

2015
Ertz (so.)
Delton (fr.) OR Hubener (jr.)

2016
Ertz (jr.)
Delton (so.) OR Hubener (sr.)
Thompson (redshirt, fr.)

2017
Ertz (sr.)
Delton (jr.)
Thompson (fr.)

2018
Delton (sr.)
Thompson (so.)

2019
Thompson (jr.)

 

That makes quite a bit more sense. The real downside to not redshirting Delton, if Ertz performs at a level that keeps Delton on the bench, is you risk alienating an athlete you have compared to Ell Roberson. Does he want to stick around for three years to wait his turn until he’s a senior? Daniel Sams didn’t. Different players and different situations, but you get the point. It could certainly unfold that way.

Redshirting Delton gives him two years under center (again presuming Ertz never relinquishes the job). Snyder has hinted that Delton will get on the field this Saturday, which barring injury basically precludes a redshirt this fall, so our hypothetical redshirt scenario will happen in 2016 instead, but you still end up with basically the same outcome whether you redshirt him in 2015 or 2016 (having Hubener around gives you the option to go with either year anyway). If you redshirt Delton, here is how it looks:

2015
Ertz (so.)
Delton (fr.) OR Hubener (jr.)
Banks (redshirt, so.)

2016
Ertz (jr.)
Hubener (sr.)
Banks (so.)
Delton (redshirt so.)
Thompson (redshirt, fr.)

2017
Ertz (sr.)
Delton (so.)
Banks (jr.) OR Thompson (fr.)

2018
Delton (jr.)
Banks (sr.) OR Thompson (so.)

2019
Delton (sr.)
Thompson (jr.)

 

And finally, here’s the “redshirt Delton” plan with Banks moving to another position, which again seems feasible with him finishing fourth in the race and getting redshirted in Year 1:

2015
Ertz (so.)
Delton (fr.) OR Hubener (jr.)

2016
Ertz (jr.)
Hubener (sr.)
Delton (redshirt so.)
Thompson (redshirt, fr.)

2017
Ertz (sr.)
Delton (so.)
Thompson (fr.)

2018
Delton (jr.)
Thompson (so.)

2019
Delton (sr.)
Thompson (jr.)

 

I like the way the staff is playing this. You’re never going to know what you’ve got at the position until the “bullets are flying” as coaches are fond of saying, so they are essentially giving themselves the greatest amount of flexibility right now by pushing a redshirt decision off another year. If Ertz pans out in a big way, you can more than likely redshirt Delton in a year and not lose anything (Delton would then have two years to start following Ertz’s graduation). But if Ertz doesn’t excel, you push him with a tremendous athlete and give yourself the option to swap them in and out for one another over the short term with hopefully Delton eventually grabbing the reins. The biggest downside to not redshirting him in 2015 would be tying your hands in 2016 — If Ertz and Hubener both suffer injuries, you basically at that point have no choice but to take the redshirt off of Delton. But even in this “doomsday” scenario, you are playing a guy you deem to be exceedingly talented, thereby lessening the likelihood he turns into a malcontent (while presumably winning games with his legs).  You also still have mega-athlete Banks to turn to if needed.

Oh noes!

Of course it’s not all roses and rainbows.  We’ll see in the coming weeks how Ertz and Delton perform, and what that means for the Wildcat offense in 2015 and beyond, but in laying out the K-State quarterback depth chart in an intelligent manner, the coaching staff has given itself a tremendous amount of flexibility both for this season and future seasons as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *