Things haven’t been too happy in the Little Apple this football season. K-State is 2-3 (0-2), and 14 unanswered points in the second half of Saturday’s game against Texas still led to a five-point loss—the first home loss against Texas since many of this year’s players were in preschool.
But after the Texas game, anxiety in Manhattan ramped up to perhaps its highest levels since Bill Snyder returned in 2009. Snyder told the media he doesn’t think it matters who starts the game at quarterback, and kept up his season-long trend of speaking much more positively of Alex Delton than he does of Skylar Thompson, despite Thompson’s play often yielding better results on the field.
So what is really going on in the head of one of the most enigmatic and secretive coaches in college football?
No one can know for sure, but we asked former K-State wide receiver Curry Sexton for his thoughts. Sexton was a major player on the 2013 K-State team that was mired in similar controversy, stuck between the effective passing threat, Jake Waters, and the flashy mobile threat, Daniel Sams.
Sexton was careful to note that he has been outside the program since he graduated in 2014 and he can’t offer any real inside information into the inner workings of the 2018 locker room, but he did acknowledge there were similarities between the controversy that exists now, and the one he witnessed as a player five years ago. But he pointed out that there are also some big differences.
“I think the one thing that makes 2018 different than 2013 is that I think there’s a difference in weapons,” Sexton said. “I think the reason that Jake [Waters] was better for that team was because of the weapons that he had around him.”
Sexton noted that Waters had several options to choose from in the passing game, from NFL talent like Tyler Lockett, to Tramaine Thompson, tight end Zach Trujillo, fullback Glenn Gronkowski, and Sexton himself.
“I think you’ve seen, for the most part, with [Isaiah] Zuber and [Dalton] Schoen being the exception, you’ve seen an inability to get open—to get separation. And we do have a good stable of running backs [in 2018],” Sexton said. “I think maybe part of the reason coach has been more partial to Alex is because he thinks Alex fits this team better than Skylar does, because Skylar, as a throwing quarterback, doesn’t really have the weapons around him to be as successful as he could be.”
Sexton acknowledged that 2018 is also different from 2013 in one other important way: the way Snyder talks about the quarterbacks. In 2014, while Sexton says Snyder preferred Daniel Sams style to Jake Waters, Snyder was never shy about praising Waters in the media. This season, Snyder has spoken at length about his appreciation for Alex Delton while keeping his praise of Thompson short and to the point and often crediting any successes Thompson enjoys to other aspects of the game. It’s even to the point that Snyder snaps at the media when questioned about it.
“I wish I knew why, and I don’t,” Sexton said. “I know Alex more than I know Skylar, but I’ve heard wonderful things about them both, so I don’t think that’s probably an issue, but I have no idea why coach seems to outwardly favor Alex when maybe sometimes the results indicate otherwise. But I’m sure there’s a reason for it.”
Sexton acknowledges that Snyder seems to have an affinity for the more dual-threat option, and he theorized that it goes all the way back to Michael Bishop, something we wrote about yesterday.
“If you look at [Snyder’s] history, going back to the nineties, he kind of created, to an extent, the ‘wildcat’ quarterback. The true dual-threat quarterback. Coach made a living off of that, from Michael Bishop, through Jonathan Beasley, through Ell [Roberson], so coach has shown himself to be more partial to the true dual-threat style quarterback,” Sexton said. “I think in 2013, at that time, the quarterbacks coach favored Jake [Waters] in that system and coach was pretty favorable to Daniel [Sams]. I think that’s what caused some of those issues ... And I imagine that’s a lot of what is going on today. I think [Snyder] prefers Delton because he’s more of a true dual-threat quarterback.”
But in 2013, with Dana Dimel and Del Miller as co-offensive coordinators and longtime Snyder collaborators, Sexton says the two offensive coaches were given more autonomy.
“[Snyder] has a lot of input, but I think he returned in 2009 and then brought [Dana] Dimel and [Del] Miller in with the understanding that they would have the full reigns of the offense,” Sexton said. “So I think in 2013, the offensive coaches had the most input into who was gonna be starting. Coach [Snyder] obviously had his say, and sometimes [Snyder’s] say, in the heat of the battle, takes precedence over everybody else. But I think for the most part, the offensive coordinators and the offensive staff were given a lot of weight in their decisions.”
As far as the change in the team from the first half to the second half against Texas, Sexton says that probably has more to do with the style of play each quarterback allows than any preference for one or the other by the other players on the team.
“From a locker room standpoint, I don’t think the quarterback issue is as divisive as fans or people in the media sometimes think,” Sexton said. “If you think about it, it’s a group of 120 guys. You spend every day together, hours and hours together. Alex and Skylar are both great people, both team captains, both very highly thought of. And while people may have their opinions or may have their preferences as to who the better quarterback is, I don’t think it divides the team like a lot of people would like to think.
“Against a team like Texas, with a lot of speed and size up front, this year I don’t think we’ve shown the ability to effectively, consistently run the ball, so it was easy for them to kind of bottle us up in the first half, and then when Skylar came in in the second half, we were able to spread the field out and put our guys in some favorable situations.”
Sexton said he does wish K-State could develop more of a planned two-quarterback system, rather than performance-based switching that seems to dictate the decisions in every case of quarterback controversy throughout Snyder’s tenure.
“Ideally, the best way to structure a two-quarterback system is to have a plan, because then the quarterbacks aren’t constantly worrying about being pulled off the field for poor performance,” he said.
Snyder gave no indication Tuesday who might start Saturday’s game against Baylor, but Sexton said he didn’t think Snyder’s comment that it doesn’t matter who starts the game is totally accurate.
“Coach [Snyder] understands the game more than anybody in the collective fan base or anybody else, so it’s hard to question him, but I think it’s easy to say that the quarterback position is no different that any [other], but it really is completely different, and that’s why there’s so much of an emphasis placed on that position,” Sexton said. “That one position can affect the game more than any other position, or multiple positions combined.