Collin Klein had a knack for lulling opponents to sleep at times last season, doing what he did best, being patient. Slowly and methodically, Klein orchestrated long drives, racked up first downs on his way down the field.
Without much flash, it proved to be an effective offensive attack for the Wildcats on their way to the Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl.
But with Klein now gone and two inexperienced quarterbacks looking to step in, one has to wonder just how much Kansas State’s offense might change this season.
According to co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, not much.
“Obviously our quarterbacks will have different strengths than what Collin had, so we’ll match it up to that, but it won’t be anything that will be that noticeable,” he said Monday during the Wildcats’ media day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. “We’re still going to do a lot of different things out of a lot of different sets, be very multiple in what we do. We have every offense there is. We can do a lot.”
Klein carried the bulk of the load the last two years on the ground, rushing for 2,061 yards and a record 50 touchdowns. One thing Klein wasn’t exactly known for was his passing. Though he threw for 2,641 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago, the big quarterback didn’t have a real big arm.
With sophomore Daniel Sams and junior college transfer Jake Waters vying for the starting job this fall, there’s a chance the Wildcats’ passing game could expand some in 2013. Both young quarterbacks showed off their arms during the spring game, seemingly launching ball after ball down the field, one always trying to outdo the other.
“It might be an offense that takes a few more chances now, instead of just going for first downs,” junior receiver Tyler Lockett said. “We might be able to take that chance downfield and go for more deep balls. But it’s also about the coaching staff having that trust and faith in the receivers to get those passes too.”
Whoever wins the QB job will have a plethora of targets on offense, including Lockett and senior receiver Tramaine Thompson. The Wildcats also return senior running back John Hubert, who rushed for a team-high 947 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, and two big tight ends in Andre McDonald and Zach Trujillo.
The offensive playmakers will be anchored by what could be the best offensive line in the Big 12 this year, as all five starters are back — providing quite the security blanket for the two QBs.
With so many returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, coupled with the possible big-play capability of Sams and Waters — both on the ground and through the air — Dimel said the offense could open up some. But one thing that won’t change is the quarterback run game. Whether it’s Sams or Waters, or both, K-State will continue to run the ball with its quarterback. That’s as much a certainty as the sun rising every morning. K-State coach Bill Snyder has run the ball with a wide variety of quarterbacks — some better at it than others.
Whether it was Michael Bishop or Ell Roberson scrambling for long gains, or Carson Coffman struggling to move the chains, or Klein punishing defenders with his size and deceptively-quick moves, the QB run game will always be part of Snyder’s offense.
“Collin did a great job getting everyone involved in the game and that’s what we want out of these guys too,” Dimel said. “We have such talented receivers, tight ends, fullbacks and that veteran offensive line, so the potential is there for the offense to be more explosive.”
Sams has widely been considered the runner and Waters the passer — essentially based on their numbers a year ago. Waters passed for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns with just three interceptions at Iowa Western. Sams, on other hand, was 6-of-8 passing for just 55 yards for the Wildcats, though he rushed 32 times for 235 yards and three scores — averaging better than 7 yards per carry.
It’s easy to see how both players have been slotted into their molds of being a passer or a runner. Dimel agrees that Sams can run and Waters can pass. But he also believes Sams can pass and Waters can run. He said these two quarterbacks aren’t quite as different as everyone wants to make them out to be.
“We recruited these guys because they can both run and they can both pass,” he said. “We go and watch them throw. We don’t recruit guys who can’t throw. And some of the people who recruited Jake last year were running-quarterback teams, like North Carolina State… And to say Daniel can’t throw, isn’t a true statement either. They have a long way to go, but they both have a chance to do both very well.”