One of the biggest questions coming into the 2013 football season for the Kansas State Wildcats is the uncertainty at quarterback. Collin Klein and his iron will are gone, along with his 87 touchdowns. (Klein had 30 passing, 56 rushing, and 1 receiving. His lone TD catch was while he was still a wide receiver as a freshman. He caught a 16 yard pass from Grant Gregory during a 62-14 thumping of Texas A&M on October 17th, 2009.) More importantly, Klein was 21-5 during his two full seasons as the Cats signal caller. Those are incredibly tough numbers to follow. The two men at the center of the debate are vastly different. One is sophomore speedster Daniel Sams. The other is Junior College transfer superstar Jake Waters. Lead Editor Dave Thoman speculated earlier this month, making his prediction that Jake Waters will be the next Wildcat starting QB. Check it out here. I am going to dig into the cases for each player and then let you decide for yourself.
We all remember just how explosive the redshirt freshman was last season when asked to give Klein a breather. While Klein was a deceptive runner, hiding behind blockers and waiting for holes, Sams was up and off to the races as quick as he could. Sams small sample size from last year is enough to get you excited but not enough to know if he is the front runner. Sams stats last year are as follows; 6-8 passing for 55 yards, 32 rushing attempts for 235 yards for a 7.3 average and 3 rushing TDs. The passing numbers are deceiving. Sams usually played in mop up duty for Klein, so throwing was not usually in the playbook. When Klein went down with a concussion against Oklahoma State, Sams filled in midway through the third quarter. With the score 38-17 in favor of the Cats, Sams was asked to hold the lead but be wary of an explosive Okie State offense. Sams went 5-6 passing for 45 yards that night, while running for 20 yards on 7 attempts. I was in attendance that night and could tell Snyder wasn’t asking for much from Sams. The Wildcats held out to win, and Klein was back the following week. This past spring game, Sams used his passing game to help prove his cause. His numbers from the game were quite impressive, going 18-28 with 391 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, adding 28 yards on the ground with 1 score. He did also throw an interception. Sams benefits from already playing one full year under Coach Snyder. Snyder also has favored a run oriented quarterback, using his legs to set up the pass. The key issue with Sams is no one is really sure how good of an arm he has. When coming in for Klein during the Oklahoma State game, his passes were mostly of the short variety. Do we credit this to his ability or the fact he was a freshman backup quarterback asked to preserve a lead for a top-five football team? Spring game numbers are fun, but nothing to put in stone.
The legend of Jake Waters has built incredible expectations since the Junior College transfer made the announcement to attend Kansas State University back in December. Not much is known to most fans about Waters, other than the QB chose K-State over Penn State and was a Junior College standout. The QB led Iowa Western to a National Championship last season, was the Player of the Year and had an incredible record of 21-2 as a starter. His historical 2012 campaign saw him throw for 3,501 yards with 39 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. He also added 256 yards on the ground and 6 scores. During his only Wildcat action in the spring game, Waters was also impressive. Waters went 14-18 for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding 27 yards on the ground and 1 TD. Good number as well but as warned before, still the spring game.
I decided to find out more about Waters from his Head Coach at Iowa Western, Scott Strohmeier. Coach Strohmeier stressed leadership as one of the things that most impressed him with Waters. A lead by example, first one in, last one out player who studies hard and has a chip on his shoulder. Hmmm, sounds exactly like a Coach Snyder type player doesn’t it? When asked about some of Jake’s strengths, Coach Strohmeier praised Water’s mechanics, mentioning he was deadly accurate with a good touch. He also suggests not to over look Waters running ability, citing he has the schools longest run in history at 85 yards. Strohmeier didn’t see many issues with Waters transition from the Junior College ranks to the Big 12, but could foresee game speed as a minor issue he believes Jake will catch up with on the fly. When asked which player Water most resembles, Coach mentioned he is similar to Tom Brady in execution, staying with reads and checking through progressions before making a decision. He stated Waters has a good feel for the pocket and knows when not to force passes.
Waters has a lot of things in his favor to win the starting job. Many of Coach Strohmeier’s characteristics of Jake Waters are things Coach Snyder covets in his starting signal caller. He may be more a pocket passer then most Snyder coached QB’s but the lack of mistakes (9 interceptions in two seasons) and not forcing plays has the Wildcat victory blueprint all over it. I don’t believe Waters would have committed to Kansas State without believing he had an excellent chance to come in and start. Sams is a year younger than Waters so his chances to start later are something to put into consideration. But Sams running ability makes me wonder if they could split reps at QB, or even add certain packages with Sams behind the center. I tend to agree with Dave that Jake Waters will be the next Wildcat quarterback, but it may be a decision Coach Snyder will push until the very end, and we know he will make the right decision, because in Bill we trust.