Jake Waters comes off the highest passer rating of any non-senior quarterback in Kansas State history. Tyler Lockett enters 2014 after recording the most receiving yards by a non-senior in K-State history. What opportunities are out there for the fall? That becomes one of the top questions as the pair of seniors embark on their final season together.
The cover of the Powercat Illustrated 2014 K-State football preview perhaps says it all: "Perfect Chemistry."
What's exactly the outcome when a quarterback and wide receiver both consistently click, when they reach that marvelous zone that Waters calls "indescribable," and that Lockett calls "amazing," on the field? The type of groove that even eventual NFL cornerbacks cannot disrupt?
The Powercat Illustrated 2014 K-State football preview cover story entails a 4,500-word investigation into the intricacies involved between the Waters-to-Lockett dynamic. Coupled with their own individual stature nationally entering 2014, the duo made for one of the most unique cover story topics as Powercat Illustrated enters its 17th season in covering K-State.
Waters, the 6-foot-1, 201-pound transfer from Iowa Western Community College, ranks sixth among all returning quarterbacks carrying a pass efficiency rating of 156.84 from a year ago. Named as a Maxwell, Davey O'Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, and Manning Award watch list member, Waters carries series consideration as a signal-caller to watch in the fall. Lockett, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound second-team All-American, enters on the Maxwell, Hornung, Biletnikoff and Walter Camp Award watch lists, and comes off the most productive junior season by a wide receiver in school history. His 81 catches and 1,262 receiving yards marked the most of any player prior to a senior year.
Sports Illustrated during the offseason named Lockett as "the Big 12's most exciting player."
"Tyler's the most exciting player I've ever played with, or that I've ever thrown the ball to," Waters said. "I'd definitely stack him up against anybody in the country."
The Powercat Illustrated 2014 K-State football preview analyzes a plethora of specific and detailed statistics.
A few highlights:
First, a game-by-game analysis reveals that Waters has thrown to Lockett 104 times, completing 73 of those passes (70.2 percent), which resulted in 1,195 yards with 10 touchdowns, one interception, and a first down 63.0 percent of the time for a 196.51 passer rating.
A set of large gray filing cabinets sit on a cement floor on the press level of the West Stadium Center at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Dusty file folders containing game statistics dating to Snyder's hiring tell the tale of many standout tandems over the last quarter century.
Including all bowl games, Josh Freeman connected with Jordy Nelson 145 times in 2006 and 2007. Jonathan Beasley found Quincy Morgan 114 times in 1999 and 2000. Michael Bishop hit Darnell McDonald 105 times in 1997 and 1998. Collin Klein and Chris Harper teamed up 94 times in 2011 and 2012, and Chad May completed 94 passes to Kevin Lockett in 1993 and 1994.
So, in actuality, Waters must complete exactly as many passes to Lockett as he did a year ago to top the Freeman-to-Nelson duo.
"That'd be an amazing feeling," Lockett said. "Not too many people have that opportunity to have that quarterback-wide receiver connection. It's not just about football. We're friends as well. On the field, Jake reads my mind. He knows what I'm going to do, how I'm going to run a certain route, and it makes everything we do a lot easier."
Already Waters and Lockett head into the season in rare air as Bill Snyder enters his 23rd season and No. 20 K-State prepares to open its season against Stephen F. Austin on Aug. 30. Only two teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision enter 2014 with both a quarterback ranked in the top 10 among returners in passing efficiency and a pass catcher in the top 10 in average receiving yards per game.
It's not Florida State or Oregon.
Try Baylor and K-State.
Preseason All-American Bryce Petty harbors the second-highest passer rating (174.3) among returning quarterbacks while Antwan Goodley's 103.0 receiving yards per game ranks only behind Lockett among returners nationally.
"It's not like Jake's going to step back and throw the ball 500 times a season like Bryce Petty. He's probably going to throw it 20 or 25 times a game," Kevin Lockett said. "When you look at the difference in passing attempts and consider they're one of two in the FBS what it says is that those guys are efficient. Looking at the completion percentage between Jake and Tyler, you'll be hard pressed to find any duo that has such statistics in terms of a 70-percent completion rate, only one interception, and more than 1,100 yards in completions. What's impressive about that stat is they're very efficient."
Sitting in his Olathe office during a July interview with Powercat Illustrated, Lockett, the all-time leader across the board in total catches (217), receiving yards (3,032) and touchdowns (26) at K-State, examined such a dynamic, knowing his 21-year-old son could overtake his marks within the next six months.
Tyler enters the 2014 season with 143 catches (4th all-time at K-State), 2,195 receiving yards (5th), and 18 touchdowns (4th). With no more than 14 possible contests remaining in Lockett's career, he needs 75 catches, 838 yards and nine touchdowns to stand atop the record book.
"I focus on the now, the things I can work on, and if certain things happen like breaking my dad's records, I can enjoy it," Lockett said. "He played a huge part in it by investing his knowledge in me, and that has helped me to be who I am today."
How's this for special? The 10 touchdown connections produced by Waters-to-Lockett covered an average of 40,0 yards per score. That included touchdowns of 48, 30 and 90 yards in a span of 6 minutes, 25 seconds during the second quarter against No. 22 Oklahoma, as Lockett went to the locker room with six catches for 206 yards and three scores at halftime, repeatedly victimizing future fourth-round NFL draft pick Aaron Colvin.
Among the nation's top 15 pass catchers a year ago, only Baylor wide receiver Antwan Goodley (40.46 yards) averaged more yards per touchdown catch among returning players for 2014. No other top-15 receiver from a year ago averaged more than 30 yards per touchdown reception heading into the fall.
Waters has fired a pass to Lockett 23 times on third down, needing an average of 8.5 yards to move the chains. Their 15 third-down connections resulted in 11 first downs and covered an average of 15.3 yards. Going by field position, they proved especially dangerous between their end zone and their 39-yard line in 2013. They connected 24 times (on 33 attempts) and averaged 21.8 yards with 18 first downs and touchdowns covering 90 and 74 yards.
K-State football held its annual football media day in early August with three practices under its belt.
Second-year wide receivers coach Andre Coleman recalled shutting down his own film study one Monday night in late July and heading down the hallway to exit the Vanier Football Complex.
"I left the stadium at 8:30 p.m. and who was sitting there watching film? Nobody else was in the building except for Jake. He's watching film," Coleman said. "That's why Tyler and Jake are special. The only thing people see is on Saturday. They don't see what I see on a daily basis. That's why I can speak highly on Jake. That's why I can look at Tyler and say there's no question there aren't five receivers in the country better than Tyler Lockett -- period.
"Film don't lie. I'll take that up against anybody."
The days of facing Jason Verrett and Colvin are gone, but Lockett described in detail to Powercat Illustrated how a new challenge awaits fully aware that everybody will key on him and try to take him away in the fall.
"Last year I had Aaron Colvin, Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, and I had the chance to see where I was at as a person and athlete," Lockett said. "Now there are going to be a lot of cornerbacks gunning for me. Now, I have to be at my best."
Kevin Lockett offered his own take on the upcoming season.
"I think Tyler will be just fine with it," he said. "He knows all the attention is going to be on him. A lot of us have been through it. That just means he has to refine his skill that much more knowing some teams are literally going to try and take him out of the game.
"On the flip side, it's going to be incumbent upon Coach Snyder and the offensive staff to be very creative when they talk about trying to get the ball into his hands. You may need to put him in motion a little bit and you probably need to line him up at different positions so defenses don't already know where he's going to be before the play starts. You're going to have to run some different type of routes, not just deep routes, but some underneath routes to just really try to find a way to get the ball into his hands.
"If the offensive staff is creative in that manner, he may not catch the same type of passes that he has over the last couple years, but he'll still get the ball, and find a way to make big plays."
It remains to be seen exactly how easily Waters-to-Lockett might scorch the field this time around. It'll assuredly be tougher this time around. Coleman preaches the team aspect.
"The bottom line is it's been a long time since K-State has had a quarterback-wide receiver tandem like this, but it's just one year," Coleman said. "In order to be special, they have to go out and prove it again, and Jake understands that Tyler Lockett wasn't the only reason that Tyler Lockett had success. He had success because he had some other guys around him, and that's going to be the case this year. You've got Curry Sexton, Deante Burton, Andre Davis, and some guys around that if teams want to start taking Tyler away, some other guys are going to have to step up."
But back to the basic question: 73 connections? Can Waters and Lockett do it?
"I'm not surprised by any results because of the work ethic," Coleman told Powercat Illustrated. "And I wouldn't be surprised if Tyler breaks his father's records and they become the best duo in K-State history because of the work on and off the field that they put in, because of the values, and the kind of people they are."