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It’s now just four days until kick-off against North Dakota State folks – by the time this work week is over, the team will be in the locker room prepping for the official start of the season. Among those players will be Daniel Sams, the sophomore from Louisiana who was anointed as Collin Klein’s replacement until Jake Waters decided to transfer to K-State last winter. With two excellent talents on campus now competing for the quarterback spot, the race has extended into the first week of college football (and, according to our projections, may rage throughout the entire year). However, I like Sams to get the starting nod this week. Here’s why (apologies to my high school English teachers. I know that statement was superfluous – it just felt right).
I believe Waters is a better known commodity than Sams. That sounds strange – Sams has experience playing against D-I talent, and filled in during the second half of the Oklahoma State game. Waters has only played at the JUCO level. However, the K-State coaching staff has appraised Waters’ physical attributes and watched him manage games. Managing games is something Sams hasn’t done.
One of Collin Klein’s greatest attributes was his football intelligence. Running the zone read, few were better capable of making adjustments and exploiting defenses. If the ball didn’t look like molasses leaving his hand, Klein would be Peyton Manning with speed. When Sams was inserted into the game, he wasn’t given the same leeway. That may have been a function of circumstances – Sams only came into games (he played a bit against Miami and actually saw time in eight games) when there was a lead and he was simply entrusted to protect that lead.
Keeping K-State on top was a relatively simple chore last year – run the ball to waste time off the clock and let that defense do its thing. So Sams ran the ball, recording 235 rushing yards and three touchdowns. However, he only attempted eight passes, completing six for 55 yards. All were short yardage throws. As such, all we really know about Sams is that he’s among the fastest kids on the team and he looks great in practice.
I’m not being flippant about that practice statement – Sams received rave reviews during the Spring Game. He split time with Waters on the first team, switching at half time. With the Purple Squad he actually passed for 150 more yards than Waters, connecting on 18-of-28 passes with one interception and four touchdowns. Playing on the second team and throwing against the first team defense, Sams was 2-for-3 for 22 yards.
Sams had more yards than Waters, but he also attempted several more passes. He connected on 64 percent of his throws, while Waters hit on 78 percent of his. Like I said, we know what Waters brings to the table. But Sams is by far the superior athlete, and I want to see how he looks against the best FCS defense in the nation in North Dakota State. If he can demonstrate the ability to connect on two thirds of his throws and still blaze past defenders on his feet, he’s our starter.
It’s important to remember that Sams is only a sophomore. While he arrived on campus two years ago, he redshirted and then played sparingly behind one of college football’s best quarterbacks last year. Growing pains will still happen. However, Sams has the potential to record 1,000 rushing yards this year, with another 1,000 for John Hubert. I don’t think he’s the decision-maker Collin Klein is, but mechanically he’s the better pure passer. The combination of running ability and mechanics could be the solution to replacing Klein we’ve been looking for.
Sams will falter at some point, and when that happens Dana Dimel will insert Waters into the game. Maybe it’s due to a shaky performance against Texas, and maybe it’s because of an isolated interception that shouldn’t have happened. And I’m still married to the idea of switching up the quarterbacks on the occasional Saturday just to force defenses to prepare for both players and keep them off balance. However, it’s the right move to put Sams on the field first – he has the ceiling to take K-State back to national prominence.