MANHATTAN — By now it’s a familiar scene.
Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson have been battling for the Kansas State quarterback job for close to a year, and with the season opener less than a month away, there is no clear winner in sight.
But don’t try telling Andre Coleman, the Wildcats’ new offensive coordinator, that a spirited quarterback competition is ever a bad thing.
“I think it’s a great situation,” Coleman said during Monday’s media day session at Snyder Family Stadium. “I think competition at any position creates good football teams.
“We’ve got two solid quarterbacks and they’re both going to win games for us. They. Both. Will. Help. Us.”
Both Delton, a junior from Hays, and Independence, Mo., sophomore Thompson already proved that last year when starter Jesse Ertz suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game. Delton got the first shot before an injury sidelined him, and Thompson was impressive in victories over Oklahoma State and Iowa State to close out the regular season.
Then in the Cactus Bowl, it was Delton who came off the bench to run for a pair of touchdowns and throw for another, receiving offensive most valuable player honors as the Wildcats rallied past UCLA, 35-17.
“When Jesse went down last year, I was called and I started. I felt comfortable starting,” Delton said. “Then, unfortunately, I went down and Skylar’s number was called.
“I felt all three quarterbacks played at a pretty decent level last year, but it’s good for our team that we have guys coming back that have starting experience. That can only benefit us.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder declared going into the spring that the two quarterbacks would start on equal footing. When neither of them claimed the job outright, here they were again in August, renewing a competition that both insist is bringing out the best in them.
“At the end of the day, this is a team sport and we both are very competitive,” Thompson said. “Sometimes that makes it hard, just because we both want this job really bad.
“But we get along really well. We help each other out, we push each other, and at the end of the day we’re trying to do the best thing for this team and win football games.”
During preseason camp, before classes start, Delton and Thompson are rooming together.
“We kind of are in the business of we just want a good product on the field,” Delton said. “So we share every thought with each other and we don’t hold anything back.
“I feel we have a good relationship in the sense that we do understand that we want what’s best for the team, and we’re going to do everything we can to be in a position to start.”
Conventional wisdom says Delton, a 6-foot, 205-pounder, is the stronger runner of the two, while the 6-2, 205-pound Thompson is a more refined passer. Coleman agrees — to a point.
“Alex is a 4.4 40, and there aren’t a lot of guys that fast,” he said. “Skylar has an unbelievable knack for getting through his progressions, keeping the play alive and has a big arm.
“They both have very similar skill sets but very different skill sets at the same time.”
The final statistics bear that out, though not overwhelmingly so.
In eight games, which included four starts, Thompson completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 689 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 267 yards and three scores. Delton threw for 637 yards and three touchdowns in seven games, completing 57.6 percent of his passes, plus rushed for 500 yards and eight TDs.
“Skylar Thompson, the word on the street, might be known as a better thrower and not as good of a runner, and Alex Delton is known for the running and not as much for the throwing,” said senior offensive tackle Dalton Risner. “But I can tell you right now, they both can sling the rock and they both can run the ball extremely well.”
In fact, Delton bristles at the notion that he’s first and foremost a runner.
“That’s a reputation that I don’t really appreciate,” he said. “I don’t think that’s very knowledgeable.
“I’m confident in my abilities to throw the ball and I’m excited to display this year what I can do with it.”
Thompson suspects the final outcome will depend less on who throws or runs better than on other factors.
“I just think it’s going to come down to execution,” he said. “Taking care of the football.”
Snyder said that regardless of who emerges as the starter, he appreciates the way both quarterbacks are approaching the competition.
“They are both extremely competitive,” he said. “You can just look at them and the competitiveness kind of ekes out at you.
“There’s a passion there, and the passion really is for their football team and their teammates, and that includes the other guy. They’re there to help each other.”
“Both are great leaders, both are extremely hard workers, both are very competitive, both are unbelievable young men and both are very deserving,” Coleman said. “It’s just unfortunate that only one guy can play.”
“They both can’t be on the field at the same time,” he added, smiling. “Not all the time.”