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Spring battle to watch: Kansas State QBs

QB Jesse Ertz suffered a season-ending knee injury two plays into the season opener against South Dakota State last season. Orlin Wagner/AP Photo

After a pair of early-season injuries, Kansas State finished ninth in the Big 12 in QBR. Can the Wildcats demonstrate improvement at the position in 2016? First, they'll have to pick a starter.

Departed: Kody Cook arrived at K-State as a receiver, but was pushed into QB duty following so many injuries. Cook had his moments at QB, notably at Oklahoma State and in K-State's upset of West Virginia. But he is out of eligibility.

Spring contenders: Senior Joe Hubener, junior Jesse Ertz, redshirt freshman Alex Delton, freshman Skylar Thompson.

Summer contenders: None.

The skinny: This will be one of the more intriguing QB battles of the spring. Even though Hubener started every game but the bowl last season, Ertz probably enters the spring as the slight favorite. Hubener was a solid rushing QB, but struggled with his passing accuracy, completing just 47.6 percent of his passes. He was benched in favor of Cook against West Virginia and in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Arkansas.

Ertz, meanwhile, was K-State's most impressive QB during fall camp before suffering the season-ending knee injury two plays into the season opener. He displayed the best arm in the preseason, but also showed an ability to make the necessary plays with his feet. The question is, will he be able to carry that over all the way, while shaking off the rust and coming back from such a serious injury.

The wild cards here are Delton, and, to a lesser degree, Thompson. Delton turned heads last spring, even drawing comparisons from coach Bill Snyder to a young Ell Roberson. Delton has tremendous playmaking potential. But he'll have to demonstrate consistency and care with the ball -- two Snyder QB hallmarks.

Thompson was a four-star signee who possesses plenty of ability. But he'll be acclimating to college life and the Snyder offense this spring. Asking him to win a four-way competition under those circumstances may be asking too much.

Prediction: Once again, Ertz will open as the Week 1 starter. But if he or the K-State offense struggles early, Delton could get a shot to show what he can do. Snyder has consistently put together title contenders when he's had standout QB play. Delton and Thompson have the best chances of eventually developing into that level.