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KSU behind Waters

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN - While everybody on the outside obsessed about Kansas State's quarterback battle, it barely made a ripple inside the Vanier Football Complex.

It wasn't until Bill Snyder had named Jake Waters as the starter during Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference that word spread to the players.

"It was probably when my dad called me," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said of hearing the news. "I called him (Monday) and he was like, 'Jake's the starting quarterback?' and I was like, 'Oh, he is?'

"So I really didn't know. And then again I didn't even hear coach say it, I just heard it from my dad."

Lockett's father, Kevin, is K-State's all-time leading receiver

Snyder said he only made his final decision between Waters, the junior college All-American, and sophomore Daniel Sams over the weekend. He never made a formal announcement to the rest of the team, but all Wildcat players who met with the media Tuesday -- Waters and Sams were not among them -- seemed unfazed.

"I really wasn't concerned about it," Lockett said. "At the end of the day, it was really tight.

"Whoever the quarterback would have been, we would have been fine with it because we were able to see the characteristics that each of them possessed out there on the field."

Snyder said Monday that Waters edged out Sams, who was Collin Klein's backup last year, based on his consistency. He did note that Sams missed some practice time during camp.

Waters, who led Iowa Western Community College to a national junior college championship last year, did have the advantage of enrolling at K-State second semester and going through spring practice with the Wildcats. But he still impressed teammates with his ability to master the Wildcats' voluminous playbook.

"It's a complex offense, so just how quickly he picked it up," said redshirt freshman Glenn Gronkowski, who learned this week that he'll start at fullback when K-State opens its season at home Friday night against North Dakota State. "He's only been here eight months and it's a hard offense to comprehend, especially at the quarterback position.

"Just knowing my position is tough as it is, so knowing what every single person is doing, where everyone's going to be, I'm surprised how quick he picked it up."

Gronkowski was not necessarily surprised at how everything shook out in the end. Nor would he have been if it was Sams who got the nod.

"Both quarterbacks were working hard," he said. "Like (Snyder) said, Daniel suffered and injury and that obviously could have been a difference there for the coaches to pick.

"But they were both working hard and they both know the offense well, so I don't know what the deciding factor was."

Though Waters is considered the more accomplished passer of the two quarterbacks - he completed a NJCAA-record 73.3 percent of his passes last year and threw for 3,501 yards with 39 touchdowns - and Sams the better runner, Snyder insisted that both are capable of handling the entirety of the offense.

Still, Waters has shown some things in the passing game already that literally have turned heads.

"That's one of the things we learned about him when he first got here that we've got to hurry up and snap our necks around because he'll throw it and it hits you in the helmet," Lockett said with a smile. "That's one of the things we had to learn and get used to once Jake got here, but we kind of got used to that in the spring."

Snyder said when naming Waters the starter that he expects Sams to see action as well in Friday's opener. He also said Sams has handled the news well since learning he would open the game on the bench.

"He's practiced well," Snyder said. "Jake's in the huddle, and he'll be right in there with him and helping Jake with anything that he might need help with, although that's not a great deal right now.

"But he's right there to help, so he's been a good teammate."

Though the players - presumably with the exception of Waters and Sams - learned about the quarterback decision second-hand, most of them took it in stride.

"I think it was (Monday) I heard somebody say it," junior center B.J. Finney said. "My mom called and said, 'Hey, they just announced Jake as the starter,'

"I was like, 'Cool. That's news to me.' "