Cats have elite QB-WR connection

By Grant Guggisberg

The weather this summer has been unseasonably cool, but there are still times after a long and grueling workout when Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters just wants to go home.

More often than not, Tyler Lockett has other plans.

“He keeps me all the time after practice,” Waters said at Big 12 media days in Dallas. “Sometimes I want to go, and he’ll say ‘Jake, let’s throw a little bit more.’ He’s always looking to throw — every practice, every workout.

“It could be 95 degrees like the other day, and he wants to throw after a workout, but that’s just Tyler.”

A season ago, Waters and Lockett teamed up to form one of the most dynamic quarterback/receiver combos in all of football, with the vast majority of Lockett’s 1,262 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns coming from Waters, despite a two-quarterback system that also utilized backup Daniel Sams in the running game.

Lockett said the strong connection started as soon as Waters got to Manhattan more than a year ago as junior-college transfer from Iowa Western Community College. Waters said the two can talk about anything despite knowing each other for less than two years, while Lockett said their friendship off the field helps fuel the on-field results.

“Not too many people get that opportunity to be able to have that quarterback/wide receiver connection,” Lockett said. “It helps, just because we’re friends off the field as well. It’s not always about football, but it could be about anything. That’s what you want in a player.

“Being able to have that relationship off the field helps, because now he knows a lot about me and I know a lot about him. So in football, he kind of reads my mind and knows what I’m going to do or run a certain route and it makes things a lot easier.”

Both players are entering their senior seasons as captains for K-State, and both have plenty to gain this year by repeating their 2013 success.

For Waters, it’s a chance to prove his value without the constant threat of losing his job to Sams, who transferred in May.

In the case of Lockett, a chance to improve his stock for the NFL draft hangs in the balance.

Lockett had a draft evaluation done following the 2013 season and was told he projected as a fourth-round pick. That wasn’t enough for Lockett, who graduates in December, to bolt.

“I didn’t really worry too much about it,” Lockett said. “I let my dad and uncle take care of it, and we looked at it, and they told me where I could be and stuff like that, but I felt like coming back was one of God’s plans for me.”

Lockett, who doesn’t possess great size but has game-changing speed, said his goal for 2014 is to continue to hone the technical side of his game.

“In everything I do, I want to be technique-sound, so I want to be able to do everything to the best of my abilities,” he said. “Because I realize that technique beats talent. Sometimes you can rely on your talent to win, but when you go against people like we did last year, guys like (Oklahoma’s) Aaron Colvin and (Oklahoma State’s) Justin Gilbert and (TCU’s) Jason Verrett, stuff like that, they have just as much talent as you. So you have to beat them off of technique.”

Waters described Lockett as a special player.

“If Tyler isn’t a first-rounder, I don’t know what is,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? All I know is Tyler is going to go and work his hardest every single day, give it everything he has and wherever he ends up, whatever teams gets him, they’re going to get a great player.”

Waters has Lockett’s full vote of confidence entering this season now that he is secure in his starting role. The senior quarterback threw for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013 while completing 61 percent of his passes, but really came into his own over the season’s final seven games — six of which ended in K-State victories.

“I would categorize Jake as one, Mr. Reliable, and if I could make up one, never settling for less,” Lockett said. “Ever since Jake has become confident in his abilities and what he can do, it’s made him a better person. Now he doesn’t have to second-guess things, he doesn’t have to question if he made the right decision.

“He’s been here for two years, he’s comfortable with the system, now he can just relax like he did at juco. And that’s what you want for your quarterback.”

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