It’s easy for the uncritical fan to judge K-State’s quarterback competition in terms of hope. We expect Jesse Ertz to be the best pure passer of the group. We expect Alex Delton and Jonathan Banks to have freakish athletic ability, somewhere in the vein of Michael Bishop or Ell Roberson. But the fact is, we don’t know. We can’t know for sure.
Only two of the four quarterbacks have actually appeared on the field in a game for K-State, and only one has thrown a pass.
Unlike the other three potential starters, this isn’t the first time Joe has had to prove himself.
Even in high school, nothing came easy.
At Cheney, Joe’s play at quarterback was limited. The Cardinals had needs at other positions — needs Joe could fill with his athleticism. He played both sides of the ball, anywhere his coach needed him — including long snapper — but always dreamed of being a full-time quarterback.
He never gave up.
After high school, he sent game film to a number of schools, just hoping for a chance to play quarterback at the next level. Coaches at K-State liked his size and mobility, and gave him the opportunity to walk-on at quarterback. He jumped at the chance, as his parents, Jerry and Kendra were both K-State alumni and Joe has bled purple his entire life.
He fought his way up the depth chart and beat out Ertz as the number-two quarterback last year. Backing up Jake Waters, he appeared in seven games in 2014, mostly in mop-up duty or when the game was out of reach. He made a name for himself as a runner — a surprise to many — scoring three times and racking up 142 yards on the ground. He was no slouch as a passer either, completing 9-of–17 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
Late in the season, he was touted by the media as a possible spark to K-State’s suffering running game. He drew comparisons to Collin Klein due to his running style, but displayed a cannon arm that distinguished him from the former Heisman-hopeful, whose passing ability was often criticized.
Then came April.
There was a lot to hate about Joe’s performance in the spring game, but as I’ve said repeatedly you can’t glean much from a spring game.
In my time in Manhattan, I’ve been to four spring games, and very little I’ve seen in April has given me any sort of hint to what we’ll see in the fall.
K-State is a team of silence. Bill Snyder is a college football’s Buddhist monk. His vow is not a literal one, but he has mastered the art of saying a lot without saying anything. The Wildcats only have a spring game because they have to, and, much like a Snyder interview, they go through the motions in April without actually showing anything.
One spring game and one “open practice” for the benefit of the fans should not give anyone a sense that they know what’s going on in that shiny new Vanier Complex.
There are things Snyder values above all others in quarterbacks — namely, experience and ball security.
Joe has played more snaps than any other quarterback on the roster. In that time, he threw one interception and did not present himself as a fumble risk. He ran the ball 27 times — never recording lost yardage.
Again, this was all in garbage time, but it still counts for something. Take the TCU game for example. This wasn't a situation where K-State had beaten the snot out of the Frogs and ruined their morale. Quite the opposite, actually. Or it should've been. Instead, Hubener took the ball and drove it the length the field — with a huge assist from Curry Sexton — and scored a touchdown.
Qualify it however you like. It's still more than any other current quarterback has done in their time in Manhattan.
Joe has yet to prove himself as the definitive answer to the quarterback question at K-State. But he has done more in actual game action to prove himself than anyone else. It is totally different to stand in the pocket in April than it is in September. There are such things as football players that thrive under the lights. Joe seems to be of that mold.
No disrespect to Jesse Ertz. He has all the makings of a fine quarterback. He may even be the opening day starter when the Wildcats line up against South Dakota. But when things start moving in live action, we’ll truly see how this race will shake out.
Joe Hubener is no stranger to situations in which he has to prove himself. I believe once he is given the opportunity in live action — when the games actually count — he will do exactly that.