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August 26, 2013One of the most intriguing duels for the starting quarterback spot at Kansas State remains a secret no longer. Head coach Bill Snyder said Monday during the initial Big 12 Conference teleconference that Jake Waters, "who has displayed more consistency," will be the starter as the Wildcats open the season against North Dakota State on Friday night in Manhattan.
"Why did I think that (quarterback) would be the first question?" Snyder said.
Snyder, who embarks on his 22nd season and with 170 victories ranks fourth in total wins among all active head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision, hasn't been fast to publicly name a clear starter at signal-caller in campaigns when a pair of unproven passers head into the fall. In some such seasons, he's opted to wait until his Tuesday news conference to do so.
He said Waters has proven himself and on Monday also noted that sophomore Daniel Sams missed some practice time during fall camp.
It appears Waters gave Snyder ample opportunity to gauge his command and decision-making capabilities during fall camp as the Wildcats enter game week to face two-time defending Football Championship Subdivision winner North Dakota State at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The contest will be televised nationally on the new Fox Sports 1 network.
"Both of them in likelihood will play, but Jake Waters will be the starter," Snyder said. "Two things were evident. One was Jake just displayed more consistency in all the areas that we've talked about in terms of managing the offense and being able to provide the kind of leadership that we want along with being able to provide the actual physical aspect of it. It's mentally, emotional and physical, and he had more consistency in his performance during these 24 or 25 practices that we had.
"What slowed Daniel down a little bit was that he missed some practice opportunities during the latter stages of our preseason work. I think both of them will play, I believe."
Both quarterbacks sought to succeed Collin Klein, K-State's first-ever Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and its second Heisman Trophy finalist in history. In fact, no quarterback in school history has won more games in his career than Klein, who left ranked in the top 5 in 26 different game, season and career statistical categories at K-State.
Klein went 22-6 as a starter and tied with 1998 Heisman runner-up Michael Bishop for most career wins at K-State.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Waters arrived in January after the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year used a record-setting completion rate (73.3 percent) and nation-leading 3,501 passing yards with 39 touchdowns and three interceptions to help Iowa Western Community College to the national title.
Waters went 58-4 in high school and junior college as the starting quarterback.
"Certainly he's invested the time and effort, and fortunately we were able to have him at midterm last year so he was able to go through the out of season program and learn a little bit about our work habits, and he invested himself in study time as it relates to our offense," Snyder said. "There's an awfully lot to learn as a quarterback, we all understand that. You have to learn everything on both sides of the ball.
"He's invested himself in his preparation and in the learning of the system. He's a very conscientious young guy in that respect. As much as anything, he invested himself, and worked extremely hard, and did above and beyond what was asked of him. It's shown obviously on the field and a degree of consistency that's helped him and helped us."
K-State comes off an 11-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl appearance. It rides a 20-game winning streak in season openers under Snyder, holding 14 of those foes to fewer than 14 points. North Dakota State enters with a 28-2 record over the last two years. The Wildcats start the week as more than a two-touchdown favorite in a game that is an announced sellout.
K-State, which earned a share of the Big 12 Championship and the league's automatic berth in a BCS bowl, was picked by league coaches to finish sixth in the Big 12 and enters unranked.
Sams encountered limited action a year ago, but when given the opportunity, the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Sams demonstrated such an impressive blend of instincts, elusiveness and flat-out speed on the ground that each snap carried potential for a highlight -- or a touchdown. He finished with 235 rushing yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns, and wasted little time with a 46-yard score in the season opener against Missouri State. He followed that up with 47 yards on three carries and two touchdowns against Miami (Fla.) before amassing a career-high 62 yards on 10 carries against Kansas three games later.
It wasn't until Sams saw mop-up duty during a blowout win at West Virginia in game seven that he attempted his first career pass. He completed 1 of 2 passes against the Mountaineers and two weeks later against Oklahoma State saw his most action as a passer in completing 5 of 6 passes for 45 yards, including a 19-yard pass, while engineering the final five offensive possessions in the second half after Klein left with a concussion against the Cowboys.
Snyder indicated that both quarterbacks could be a threat and that Sams could see the field on Friday. The potential exists that Sams could still somewhat tighten the gap based upon how he might perform after missing recent practices.
"The opportunity is always there and the answer is that it's all in (Sams') hands," Snyder said. "The opportunity will be there, yes, most certainly."
But make no mistake, this is Waters' job to lose.
Historically, Snyder's teams are most dangerous with a clear starter at the helm. Since 1993, in 12 seasons when one quarterback has started at least 11 games, the Wildcats have averaged 10.0 wins. In the other five seasons, they've averaged only 6.4 victories.
Indications are that Waters can make all the throws and continues to become engrained in making plays in Snyder's system under duress from the defense. Picking up a system and delivering thrilling performances has been a hallmark of Waters. Last season, he played in only 34 of 48 quarters last season as things simply got out of hand for a nation-leading offense that averaged 62.8 points. He only played an entire game once in the first 10 contests. In averaging 102.9 passing yards per quarter of action, Waters would've finished with 4,929 passing yards and 55 touchdowns and four interceptions, which would've all been single-season NJCAA records.
"He's not an overly-vocal leader and we're trying to draw some of that out of him," Snyder said, "but he's gained the respect, which you can lead if you can't gain the respect of others, and he's gained the respect of his teammates by his consistent approach to the game and by spending so much time working at it and working to develop his mental aspect of the game.
"I have a great appreciation for Daniel, because even though they were in such heavy competition, Daniel was a great asset, and still is, and works diligently with him to help him gain the knowledge of the entirety of the system.
"(Waters) has done that and consequently has gained a great deal of respect from his teammates."
Now Waters will get his shot at beginning a new legacy Friday.
Kansas State NEWS