Each week, this piece will address five things that may not neatly fit into the traditional news outlets' analyses of Kansas State football.
1. Joe Hubener is the clear number two option at quarterback
Judging by Bill Snyder's statements, Joe Hubener, a former walk-on, being awarded a scholarship immediately before the start of his sophomore season, and his indication as the back-up quarterback on the depth chart (where one might have expected to see an "OR"), it would be easy for one to think that this conclusion was obvious. Nevertheless, Bill Snyder has a history of making his players earn their way up the depth chart, so it wouldn't have been surprising to see Jesse Ertz earn just as many snaps in week one, while eventually moving into the number two spot.
However, after watching Hubener play once again, it has become very apparent that there is good reason behind Coach Snyder's compliments. Hubener showed a big arm in the spring game. Against Stephen F. Austin, he showed strength and surprising athleticism in the quarterback run game.
While the opponent had a weak defense, it was so important to see that Hubener appears to have the skills to run K-State's entire package. While he is listed at 6-4, 205 and Ertz is shown at 6-4, 199, it is very apparent that Hubener is both taller than Ertz and probably in the 220 to 225 pound range. He has the look of a stronger-armed, slower Collin Klein.
In short, at this time, Joe Hubener would have to be considered not only the top back-up quarterback for this season, but also the front-runner for the quarterback position in 2015. This is not to speak ill of Jesse Ertz's development, but rather to point out that K-State's walk-on program may have unearthed another hidden gem. And for any skeptics as to a former walk-on's shot at that position, do not forget that K-State's current starting quarterback also did not have FBS offers coming out of high school.
2. Judah Jones will carve out a role in the offense
Outside of Tyler Lockett, Judah Jones may be the only true gamebreaker at the skill positions for K-State. Because of that, the Wildcats' coaching staff needs to find a way to utilize his talent. Bill Snyder inserting Jones' name into the tailback discussion during the post-game tailback discussion and chastising himself and the offensive staff for being stubborn by not getting him more involved sounds a lot like his statements about Daniel Sams not being utilized enough at times last season. There is a reason for that: Coach Snyder hates seeing one of his best weapons not being utilized to its full potential.
As the season progresses, expect to see some additional packages with Judah Jones in the backfield, running jet sweeps and reverses, and catching screen passes. Think Tyler Lockett as a true freshman on the 2011 team. It would be great if he could relieve Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton of punt return duties, while also handling kickoff returns. His combination of speed and agility should result in some big plays this year.
3. Man-to-man defense without a ten-yard cushion is back
Coach Snyder and K-State fans bemoaned the play of the Wildcats in reacting to quarterback scrambles, and rightfully so. However, there is a silver lining. The fact that the defense was playing a tighter man-to-man coverage is indicative of the fact that Tom Hayes trusts his defensive backs to play a more aggressive style of football, which means that there should be some alternatives to the bend-don't-break defenses of the past few seasons.
A couple times Morgan Burns was victimized and Danzel McDaniel failed to keep contain on a couple of quick passes out to the flats. Some of that will be corrected with experience, but some of it is inherent in a more aggressive defensive philosophy.
While K-State fans can expect to see more zone and sagging man-to-man defense when the athleticism of opposing receivers improves in the coming weeks, it was refreshing to see the amount of trust given to those players, as one would think it speaks to their capabilities.
4. Do not expect junior college players to become every down players in time for Auburn
I cautioned against the expectation that D'Vonta Derricott, Terrell Clinkscales, and A.J. Allen would immediately become starters once they would set foot on campus. Likewise, I now caution fans not to expect these young men to garner much, if any, playing time against Auburn. It is possible that Clinkscales might get a few snaps as a reserve, but even that is an unknown, given the number of guys the coaches have to choose from at that position.
If those guys were to all have great weeks of pratice, it is more realistic to expect them to begin having a major impact around the sixth or seventh game of the season. With regard to Derricott and Clinkscales, it just seems unrealistic to expect the coaching staff to place too much faith in late-arriving junior college players against Auburn's dynamic offense that early in the season, when those same players did not even get repetitions in the blowout in week one.
5. K-State is fortunate to play Iowa State early this year
Breaking in a new coaching staff and a new offensive system is hard. Iowa State was bound to have some growing pains even if all of their offensive players had remained healthy and if they had played an average FCS team. However, given how things played out, it is not quite so surprising to see that the Cyclones' offense only managed 14 points.
Mark Mangino knows how to run a successful offense. Sam Richardson also appears to be a better choice to run that offense than Grant Rohach. However, it may take a few more weeks for things to click for the Cyclones. Which means that it could be a blessing in disguise for K-State that Farmageddon is in week 2, rather than in November.