Bill Snyder didn’t bring Jake Waters to Kansas State to be the water(s) boy.
He brought him in because Waters was arguably the best junior college quarterback in the country last season and a player who is capable of being a force in the Big 12.
But before you run out and sell off all of your Daniel Sams stock, be reminded that Sams is just the kind of quarterback Snyder has traditionally loved. He’s big, strong and fast, with an emphasis on fast.
Just because Snyder has named Waters as K-State’s starter for the opener Friday against North Dakota State doesn’t mean Sams is going to be relegated to a clipboard-toting, ballcap-on-backwards backup.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Waters is a pass-first, think-about-running-second quarterback. He has mobility, but it’s the rocket inside his right arm that earned Waters the starting spot.
Sams, meanwhile, loves the open field. He threw eight passes in eight mop-up appearances last season. He did complete six.
But Sams loves to tuck the ball and run. He did so 32 times in 2012 and picked up 235 yards to go with three touchdowns. That’s 7.3 yards per carry.
Trust me, that 7.3 number – even if it was against back-up defenders – is one Snyder knows about. He’s rolled it around in his head for months now while thinking of creative ways to get Sams more touches.
If there’s one thing Snyder loves more than a late night run to Taco Bell, it’s a running quarterback.
But it wasn’t always that way.
During Snyder’s first eight seasons at K-State, with quarterbacks ranging from Carl Straw to Paul Watson to Jason Smargiasso to Chad Miller to Brian Kavanagh, the Wildcats were pretty traditional with their QBs. They mostly passed.
From 1989 through 1996, K-State quarterbacks accounted for a rushing total of minus-25 yards on 903 carries. There were frequent sacks and few successful scrambles.
The job of a K-State quarterback in those seasons was to drop back and pass before a tackler unleashed any violence.
Then along came Michael Bishop, who arrived from Blinn (Texas) Junior College in 1997. K-State’s football world changed forever.
Bishop could throw, especially by the time he was a senior in 1998. But when he tucked the ball and ran, trumpets should have blared. He was electric, gaining 1,304 yards on the ground in his two seasons and scoring 23 rushing touchdowns.
Jonathan Beasley, who followed Bishop, wasn’t quite the runner. But he wasn’t bad, rushing for 975 yards and 25 touchdowns in his two seasons as starter.
Then the keys were handed to Ell Roberson, who gained 2,653 yards on 571 carries covering three seasons and scored 40 rushing touchdowns.
Even quarterbacks like Allen Webb, Grant Gregory and Carson Coffman were somewhat productive runners under Snyder, who by the time they came along was all-in when it came to using a quarterback’s feet as much as his arm.
And then there was Collin Klein, who ran his way into Heisman Trophy contention while rushing for 2,061 yards and 50 touchdowns during his two seasons.
Take away those first eight Snyder teams and K-State quarterbacks have rushed for 9,457 yards and 240 touchdowns during the other 13.
And the best explanation for why Snyder isn’t about to bury Sams on the depth chart.
File this away: Sams played not only quarterback, but also wide receiver and running back in high school. As a senior at Salmen High in Slidell, La., Sams passed for 577 yards, ran for 579 and caught 21 passes for 518 yards. He had a part in 25 touchdowns.
Do you think Snyder might have a plan for this guy? He’s the coach’s perfect Christmas present, a new toy that allows the old coach’s imagination to run wild.
It sounds crazy to say, but I think a lot of K-State fans looked forward to routs last season just so they could see Sams get on the field and move his feet. Klein had a plodding way of running. Don’t get me wrong, he had moves and was really good most of the time at avoiding hits.
But Sams runs at another level. I’m not even sure he was really brought to K-State to be the team’s starting quarterback. I think he was brought to K-State to wreak havoc in any way the coaching staff can devise.
And Snyder is the master deviser. The man can mix up some strange brew and no doubt regards Sams as a potential tasty ingredient.
So, yes, Waters is K-State’s starter. And chances are he’ll be an outstanding quarterback.
Sams as a secret weapon? Maybe, but probably not a secret for long.