DALLAS — Almost a year ago, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters thought he was ready.
Summer workouts and fall camp came and went, and the transfer from Iowa Western won the starting job at K-State despite never having played a down for the Wildcats. He prepared to a level he felt was adequate and the 2013 season started with a bust, as the Wildcats lost to North Dakota State in their season opener, 24-21.
Fast forward a year later, and the back-and-forth battle with Daniel Sams, who transferred to McNeese State in May, at quarterback is over. For better or worse, Waters is the guy, and with the benefit of a year’s worth of hindsight, he now knows what it’s like to truly be ready to start a season.
“I thought we were ready last year and we obviously weren’t,” Waters said at the Big 12 Media Days at the Dallas Omni Hotel. “You can’t look forward to the Iowa State game or Auburn game. We have to take it one game at a time.
“We need to start fast and then keep going.”
Waters said this season has a completely different feel compared to last season when everything was still so new.
“I’m so comfortable in my own skin and in the process and what we’re trying to do, every practice and every game plan,” he said. “Everything’s not brand new to me. I’ve been through a summer, I’ve been through camp, so I know what to expect.”
K-State head coach Bill Snyder said despite an up-and-down season in 2013, what he appreciates most about Waters is his work ethic and desire to get better.
“He had a rocky start in the first half of the season,” Snyder said. “But at no time did he ever stop trying to improve his plight. He’s a bright, young guy, he works well. But it was just a new environment for him and just having the experience, we all do that in whatever our routine is.”
Waters’ comfort level has only increased since the end of the 2013 season, which saw the Wildcats win the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over Michigan, 31-14, in a dominant performance.
The departure of Sams has also had an effect on Waters. While the team will miss his athleticism, the uncertainty at the quarterback position is gone, which has helped Waters to gain confidence and be more comfortable in his role without constantly looking over his shoulder to see if coaches were looking to make a change.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t (have more confidence), not knowing if one play I’m going to get pulled out, or not knowing how much I’m going to play in a given game,” Waters said. “So it definitely helps my confidence knowing it’s my offense and they’re looking to me to help lead us. It’s a challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Waters said the playbook is likely to remain similar even with a single-quarterback system, though his running plays will be directly affected by who wins the job at running back, which Snyder stayed quiet about.
“I think it won’t be the exact same,” Waters said. “We’re still going to do the quarterback run-game, obviously, because I can do that and throw off of it as well. But we’ll have to see in camp where we’re at, see how the running backs are coming along. If they’re coming along, I may not have to run it as much, we’ll just have to see.”