MANHATTAN, Kans. – First off, replacing Collin Klein is a practical impossibility. Over the last two seasons, his courage, leadership and production helped Kansas State embarrass the predictors while winning the 2012 Big 12 Conference title.
Second off, the Wildcats will have a quarterback this season. The choice between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters hasn’t been made. And while Kansas State has to rebuild a defense missing nine starters, the question regarding who will run the offense is getting the most preseason attention.
K-State coach Bill Snyder was asked Wednesday how the quarterback would be chosen. Short answer: “The one who’s the best.”
Longer answer: “Part of it will be physical capabilities, throwing the ball accurately, making decisions when to run, getting us in and out of good and bad plays. Then there’s football I.Q., recognition of defenses and leadership.”
Sams, a sophomore who saw limited playing time as Klein’s backup, has the benefit of experience in the K-State system. He’s regarded as a better runner than a passer. Last season he gained 235 yards and on 32 rushing attempts and completed 6 of 8 passes for 55 yards.
Waters, who led Iowa Western to the NJCAA national championship a year ago, is a stronger passer than a runner.
"I had to catch up to Daniel because he's been in the system longer so I spent a lot of time with the playbook and watching film and that's helped me, so far," said Waters, who threw for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. “I definitely know the playbook better than I did in the spring. I'm not where I want to be or need to be, but that's what fall camp is for."
Klein was a determined runner who improved his passing skills. Sams and Waters each have skill sets that are making for an intriguing battle.
Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel hints that no matter who starts the season opener that both Sams and Waters could see action as the season progresses. He envisions having a package of plays for the No. 2 QB.
“Daniel is going to have his role. If he’s not starting, he will play. He’s not going to sit and watch,” Dimel said at K-State’s media day earlier this week. “Whoever wins it out, the other guy has got to be ready to play as well. That’s the biggest thing. The last couple years we haven’t really had that luxury. We have been on pins and needles. The first guy goes down and we are in trouble.”
Through spring practice and so far through preseason camp, the competition is benefitting both quarterbacks.
“I seem them constantly pushing each other,” senior linebacker Blake Slaughter said. “One day, you’ll see one of them make the right read on a pass play. The next day, I see the other quarterback make that read.”
Beware The Bison
The average college football fan likely considers Kansas State’s season opener to be an easy victory. The Wildcats will play host to North Dakota State on Aug. 30 in a game that will help the school celebrate the new west side seating and suites at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
But know this: The Bison are the two-time Football Championship Subdivision champions. North Dakota State returns 18 starters, including quarterback Brock Jensen. North Dakota State is the unanimous preseason choice to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
* K-State returns just 60.9 percent of its letter-winners from last year. That ranks 112th out of 125 programs in the NCAA's Football Bowl Division. The Wildcats have 35.7 percent of their yardage back from 2012, which is 117th. And they return just 34.2 percent of its tackles from last season; no team in FBS has a lower percentage.
* Junior Tyler Lockett has averaged 33.8 yards on kickoff returns and scored two touchdowns on kick returns each of the last two seasons. Last season he had 44 receptions for 687 yards and four TDs. His goal in 2013: “I want to be great in everything I do. The way I am with kickoff returns, I want to be the same way at receiver.”
* The Wildcats will open the season with two new coaches - Andre Coleman replaced Michael Smith as the wide receivers coach and Blake Seiler took over for Joe Bob Clements at defensive ends.
Linebacker Blake Slaughter on Kansas State picked by the media to finish sixth in the Big 12:
“They can put us wherever they want to put us. That doesn't change what we've been doing here. That doesn't change what we do in camp. We have a process that we do every single year, year-in and year-out. It's been the same for five years. We're going to continue to be K-State and play K-State football."
Senior running back John Hubert, who has come up just short of gaining 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons:
“It depends on who you are, but to me, 1,000 yards is a big deal. I think I did a lot to help my team out, even though I finished short of 1,000 yards. I played my role and I got what I was given. But 1,000 yards is big to me. That’s my goal.”
Senior linebacker Tre Walker on the new players who will have to help replace nine starters on the defensive unit:
“We’re young. We’ve got to come together fast and strong. It’s taken the young guys, the new guys coming into the program, to prove we can’t be complacent. We can’t rely on the fact we won last year. We’re not the champs anymore. We’ve got to go back and fight, scratch and claw.’’