DALLAS — Tyler Lockett thinks the best thing to have happened to Daniel Sams was the arrival of Jake Waters.
Kansas State’s sophomore quarterback served as the backup to Collin Klein a year ago, playing in eight games and often dazzling with his dynamic running ability. It would be easy to assume the Slidell, La., native would just move into the starting job this season with Klein gone.
Not so fast.
When K-State recruited and signed Jake Waters from Iowa Western in the offseason — last season’s NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year — the quarterback situation in Manhattan took on an entirely new look. All of a sudden, what seemed to a certainty in Sams taking over at QB, turned into a legitimate position battle.
“To have somebody come in and make you have to work every single day, you realize that you can’t take a week off or two days off,” Lockett said this week during Big 12 Media Days. “If you have somebody pushing you, it’s like, ‘if you slip up, I’m going to take your spot.’
“That makes Daniel want to be at his best. Nothing will be given to him. He has to earn it, just like anything in life too — after football — whether you’re playing pro or you’re a businessman. Both of them have to earn it. I think Jake coming in was one of the best things to happen to Daniel.”
Snyder has said the two quarterbacks are even right now, one QB winning one day, and the other winning the next — a back-and-forth competition that could easily go down to the Aug. 30 season opener at home against North Dakota State.
Sams has long been regarded as the runner and Waters the passer. The numbers say much. Sams — at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds — rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns a year ago for the Wildcats, mainly in mop-up duty. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 55 yards, including his most significant action of the season against Oklahoma State when he was 5-of-6 passing for 45 yards for an injured Klein.
Waters, on the other hand, completed a juco-record 73.3 percent of his passes for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns, with only one interception. The 6-1, 210-pound junior led Iowa Western to a perfect 12-0 record and the juco national title.
The numbers say Sams and Waters are different. Lockett doesn’t buy it.
“I believe they’re more similar than they are different,” the junior receiver said. “People say Sams is a runner, because if you look at last year, all he did was run the ball. A lot of people haven’t seen him pass the ball. But he can pass the ball and a lot of people just haven’t seen it yet.
“That’s the same thing with Jake. Everyone says Jake can throw the ball, which he can. But nobody has seen him run the ball yet. He didn’t have to do that when he was at juco… Instead of saying ‘this person is one-sided and this person is one-sided,’ they haven’t seen the other side of either of them.”
K-State’s All-Big 12 center BJ Finney agrees.
“They both have that big-play capability,” he said. “They have both facets of the game — can run and pass. They’re very talented athletes and they’re helping each other out. They’re not after one another. They’re actually helping each other get better. I’m all for that. That’s huge for us.”
Lockett said both Sams and Waters are the total package.
“Whoever wins the job, it will be an amazing experience to see how everybody responds to seeing that these guys are complete players, complete quarterbacks,” he said.
But who is going to win the job? Will one guy win the job or could K-State be considering a possible two-headed approach under center this season? Lockett has no idea, saying both have looked great so far. Lockett also doesn’t see a problem with both sharing the job once the season starts either.
“I don’t think it matters at all,” he said. “We played with two quarterbacks in high school my senior year. They switched off every two possessions and we ended up winning state. I don’t think it matters, as long as you have a relationship with each of them and you’re on the same page. If they both have confidence, they’ll be fine. You saw them in the spring game. They’re pushing each other to be the best.”
Don’t look to Finney for the inside track on the new starting QB either.
“I have no idea who the starting quarterback is going to be,” he said. “None.”
Finney, who is one of five starting offensive linemen returning for the Wildcats, just knows it’s going to be different without Klein in the backfield.
“You won’t be able to replace Collin Klein,” he said. “But whatever shoes there are to fill, they need to be picked up by the 10 others guys on that field, so they don’t feel like they need to be Collin Klein. Having a new quarterback will be different because you don’t know that quarterback very well and haven’t been in full scrimmages yet.
“It’s about learning the system and understanding what we expect from them. Fall camp will tell us all we need to know.”