Breaking Down the K-State Offense Going Forward

| September 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

 By Cole Manbeck


Kansas State entered this season inexperienced and unproven at quarterback. But one thing I never thought would become a concern would be the number of bodies the Wildcats have at the position. However, when the starting quarterback goes down with what what’s likely a season-ending injury on the first offensive play of the season, that perspective changes. K-State is now one injury away from starting a true freshman under center. And while the coaching staff is high on Alex Delton and his future is certainly bright, that’s not an ideal situation.


K-State’s offense must now adjust with Joe Hubener at quarterback. While both Jesse Ertz and Hubener have the capability to run the football, there are some differences in their games. For one, Ertz was more of a zone-read quarterback in the running game. Hubener is more of a power runner who doesn’t possess the straight-line speed that Ertz did or the burst off a zone-read, but has the ability to gain yards after initial contact.


The passing game is where I think we will notice the most obvious difference. Hubener struggles with his accuracy at times. His biggest strength is far and away his strong arm and he put that on display in the Wildcats’ 34-0 victory over South Dakota last Saturday. Out of Hubener’s 18 passing attempts on Saturday, seven of them went 25 yards or more. He completed three of them. Five of the seven attempts went for 30-plus yards.


It was just one game, and the Wildcats didn’t game plan to play Hubener throughout the contest. But the deep ball could very well be the offensive attack K-State looks to utilize with the junior under center. However, the concern there is that K-State doesn’t have burners at wide receiver to excel at that type of passing attack. Dominique Heath is explosive, but he stands at 5-foot-8. Deante Burton, Kyle Klein and Kody Cook are more possession-type receivers who excel at the intermediate passing game. And other weapons on the K-State offense are its tight ends and fullbacks in Cody Small, Glenn Gronkowski and Winston Dimel – players you look to hit on more intermediate routes. Hubener very well could excel at the position and be accurate, but I always got the sense that Ertz was the more accurate of the two at passing the football and thus, fit this offense well with the receivers the quarterbacks have to throw to.


Hubener showed a tendency on Saturday to stare down his receiver right after the snap, which will lead to interceptions once the competition improves. That will need to change going forward and will improve with experience. This probably sounds like I am knocking Hubener, when in reality, I felt he performed very well for being thrown into the fire unexpectedly early in the game. I came away impressed with his arm strength as well as the touch he had on some of his longer throws. He will only get better with more reps as the No. 1 guy in practice.



K-State’s running game


K-State ran the ball effectively against South Dakota, and credit to the offensive line, which opened up some nice holes and drove the defense several yards back on a few plays while also providing great protection for Hubener in passing situations. However, the performance in the ground game should be taken with a grain of salt. K-State averaged 4.6 yards per carry against the Coyotes. In last year’s season opener, the Wildcats averaged 4.7 yards per rush and ran for 240 yards against Stephen F. Austin. And we saw how the running game struggled the remainder of the season.


K-State still lacked explosive plays on the ground. Charles Jones’ longest play from scrimmage was 7 yards on Saturday. His longest play on the ground all of last season was 18 yards. The Wildcats need bigger plays from their starting tailback. K-State once again didn’t have a running back record a run of 20-plus yards in a game, and Saturday marked the 15th straight game where K-State has failed to have a running back gain 100 yards on the ground. However, this was just one game and who is to say Jones doesn’t pop a big play this Saturday on the road at UTSA. In addition, Justin Silmon ran well and looked like he could be a dynamic runner for the Wildcats going forward.


Looking ahead to UTSA


UTSA presents some challenges for K-State, with the primary one being that it’s the Wildcats’ first road game of the season and marks the first start of Hubener’s career. Coming into the season, this was a game I thought K-State would win easily. UTSA returned just five starters off a 4-8 football team. However, UTSA’s performance last Thursday at Arizona, coupled with the K-State injuries, has changed my perspective. Larry Coker is a quality football coach and has had an extra two days to prepare for K-State due to the Roadrunners playing last Thursday.


The UTSA offense racked up more than 500 yards against Arizona in the season opener. Arizona isn’t known for its defense and was playing without several key guys, but that’s still an impressive number. The primary concern for K-State will be defending tight end David Morgan. The 6-foot-4 senior had nine receptions for 109 yards against Arizona. The reason this is a concern is because Dante Barnett is banged up and didn’t play in the second half against South Dakota after suffering an injury. If Barnett is unable to go, the Wildcats will be relying on a freshman in Kendall Adams, or a linebacker, to cover Morgan. K-State’s secondary, a position group the coaching staff is very high on, will get its first true test of the season.


In addition, the Wildcats’ defense will face its first hurry-up offense of the season. UTSA ran 95 plays against Arizona. K-State is used to seeing this in the Big 12, but it’s the first time this team will go against that style of attack, which is always a test.


I expect the Wildcats to come home with a victory, but I won’t be the least bit surprised if it’s a close game throughout.


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