MANHATTAN — Kansas State began the football season with a rock solid offensive line, returning three full-time starters, two others who split time at a guard position while losing the other guard to graduation.
The unit took a hit early in fall camp when senior center Reid Najvar was lost for the season for a medical issue, and last week right tackle Dalton Risner left the game with an injury. Risner’s status for this week’s game at Vanderbilt is uncertain, but the concern about inexperience behind the veteran starters has come into play with positive results.
Sophomore Adam Holtorf stepped into the center position and last week in the 55-7 win over Charlotte sophomore Nick Kaltmayer took over at right tackle when Risner went out after the opening series.
“They definitely stepped up,” said K-State tight end Dayton Valentine. “For Adam, it was a role he was prepared for and has gotten better each week. And Nick, it was good to see a young guy come in and play pretty well. That depth helps a lot to build confidence knowing that if a guy goes down, another guy can come in.”
Kaltmayer is listed on the depth chart as the back-up left tackle behind Scott Frantz but was ready to go on the right side.
“He fit in seamlessly,” Holtorf said. “He did some great things, so credit to him as the next man up. He came in and did a great job blocking at right tackle so it was great to see him step in like that.”
It was the first extensive action for Kaltmayer, who redshirted last season after transferring from Western Illinois.
“He graded well, kind of B average, but we don’t use A, B and C,” coach Bill Snyder said. “There’s some things he could do much better but he played reasonably well.”
It was a strong performance by the entire line, leading the way to a 304-yard rushing day that resulted in Holtorf and right guard Tyler Mitchell being selected the Wildcats’ offensive players of the week.
“The biggest thing I felt I did better from week one was just being more physical at the point of attack,” Holtorf said. “Against Central Arkansas there were some blocks I didn’t finish that I should have and I think I did a better job week two of being more physical and finishing blocks down field.”
The first two games for the No. 18 Wildcats went according to script, winning by a combined score of 110-16 that allowed Snyder to get a look at all of the back-ups, including the offensive linemen.
“The young guys that have been able to step in and play up to this point in time that have been number twos have done reasonably well,” Snyder said. “That’s a positive thing about being able to have the games that we have had to have that opportunity to get your twos and threes a decent amount of playing time because at some point in time you’re going to need them all.”
PERSONNEL MATTERS — The Wildcats’ already deep backfield should be at full strength with Justin Silmon expected to play at Vanderbilt after sitting out the first two games.
“Justin is coming along,” Snyder said. “He’s practicing right now and looked good (Monday) so we’d anticipate him getting a decent amount of snaps.”
STAYING PUT — Snyder praised the progress of junior college transfer strong safety Eli Walker after the Charlotte game, mentioning he has the ability to move up to linebacker. That is not a project in the works.
“He’s got enough on his plate where he is right now,” Snyder said. “We’re trying to bring him along in the position he is at. He still has a lot to learn but I’m pleased with his capabilities. He’s getting better and better and better as he goes and I don’t want to distract him from that, other than some special teams work he’ll do.”
BACK FOR SIX? — Quarterback Jesse Ertz said prior to the season he wasn’t optimistic about being granted a sixth year to return next season through a medical hardship, but the door is not completely shut.
“It’s something we have to appeal to the NCAA and that can’t take place until the conclusion of the season and the conclusion of his eligibility,” Snyder said. “I don’t know where it will go. I’m told the precedent has not favored that, but I look around and see guys getting a sixth year and it seems some of them have been there longer than I’ve been here, so I’m trying to find the balance in all this. We just have to wait until the end of the year.”
Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.