K-State held its annual Purple-White spring game on Saturday to provide fans with an early look at the 2015 roster. Because of the ongoing north end zone construction at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the game was held in Sporting Park in Kansas City, home to Sporting KC of the MLS. Those familiar with the traditional spring game format know that the score doesn’t have much significance, but for what it’s worth the Purple squad crushed the White 66-13.
A particular area in the Wildcat offense that I am worried about this year is the receiver position. Two senior standouts from last season, Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton, are both gone. This year, the success of the Cats’ receiving core is going to depend on some younger talent. Deante Burton had an impressive performance Saturday, racking up 107 yards on four receptions. Burton is a 6-foot-2, hometown kid who was a standout at Manhattan High in 2011. In 2014, he started 9 games while catching 17 passes for 171 yards. I’m looking for Burton to surprise some people this year and play a larger role in the K-State offense. It won’t be an easy task replacing such a talented receiving core, but it looks like Burton is headed in the right direction.
Perhaps the most intriguing storyline this offseason is the quarterback race. As I wrote a few weeks ago, true freshman Alex Delton was an intriguing prospect who faces stiff competition. Delton saw some action in his K-State debut, but he struggled passing the ball, completing only 3 of his 12 passes, but impressed with his speed by rushing for 61 yards. Sophomore Jesse Ertz struggled to find his rhythm and tossed two pick-six interceptions. Junior Joe Hubener, arguably the front runner, but he threw a pick and completed just 7 of his 19 passes.
I was hoping to see one of these guys emerge as favorite to win the quarterback race, but it appears they all have much to improve on. At this point, I see this competition continuing through the summer and possibly into the first couple games of the season. K-State opens up with a very easy schedule, against South Dakota, UT-San Antonio, and Louisiana Tech. This could give the coaching staff time to figure out who their guy is.
Coach Snyder has been outspoken about the freshman Delton’s progression and maturity level since his arrival to campus. It is rare to hear Snyder give this type of praise to an individual player which suggests that he sees potential in the “youngster,” as he commonly says. Even rarer is Snyder starting a freshman at such a key position. While putting a true freshman in command of the offense may seem like a risky move, Snyder knows potential when he sees it.
Last season, the Wildcats saw a true freshman Elijah Lee develop into a talented pass-rusher for the defense. On Saturday, Lee’s performance showed his continued improvement. He finished the scrimmage with a sack, a pick-six, and led the game with 10.5 tackles. Lee’s rapid progression is very encouraging, and I believe he will land a starting position on the defense this season. If you’re looking for a rising star in in the Big 12 this season, Lee is definitely a guy to keep your eye on.
Now that the excitement of spring football has come to a close, it’s going to be a long wait till we get our next taste of gridiron action. In the meantime, K-State fans have plenty questions to chew on during the summer months.
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