Manhattan Kansas State coach Bill Snyder waited until nearly the last possible moment to name a starting quarterback, giving the nod to Carson Coffman over Grant Gregory four days before the season opener.
It was such a close race, the competition still isn’t over.
Coffman, a junior, will start Saturday against Massachusetts, though Gregory will see plenty of playing time at quarterback as well. And the competition will continue after that.
“It really wasn’t the easiest decision in the world, I can assure you of that,” Snyder said Tuesday.
Coffman and Gregory waged a taut battle during preseason camp, neither able to pull ahead by much. Coffman’s edge may have come in the spring.
Coffman spent the past two seasons playing behind Josh Freeman, who’s now in the NFL, and he knows his way around Kansas State’s offense.
After two years as Matt Grothe’s backup at South Florida, Gregory transferred to Kansas State early in the summer and missed spring practice.
That one week may have made all the difference.
“I think the spring helped me a lot,” Coffman said. “Just getting that advantage and that experience over Grant helped me a lot. It’s still strong competition. Grant’s an excellent player and he’s just right behind me, right on my tail. He’s pushing me a lot and I still feel like I have to earn the job a little bit.”
At 6-foot-3, Coffman is more of a standup, in-the-pocket quarterback than Gregory. Former Kansas State coach Ron Prince brought Coffman in to run the pro-style passing offense he had installed after replacing Snyder in 2006.
Gregory, a sixth-year senior, is a little quicker than Coffman, more like former quarterbacks Ell Roberson and Michael Bishop, who ran the option style offense Snyder liked to run in his first stint as Kansas State’s coach.
Coffman’s experience and presence in the huddle helped him earn the slight edge over Gregory. And it is only a slight edge.
“I think Grant will respond appropriately and it will continue to be competitive,” Snyder said. “That’s going to be important to this football team and to the growth of this football team. I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference at all. That’s why it was such a difficult decision.”
Snyder also announced that Daniel Thomas will start at running back.
A quarterback at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Thomas had been expected to compete with Coffman and Gregory as the Wildcats’ starter. Instead, he switched to running back and his athletic ability helped him beat out senior Keithen Valentine.