QB battle under way for Wildcats
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN - Daniel Sams has yet to show his coaches and teammates enough this spring to make the Kansas State starting quarterback job his own.
With junior college All-American Jake Waters pushing him, that battle is likely to carry over to preseason camp in the fall.
What Sams, a redshirt freshman backup to Collin Klein last fall, has done is make it clear to everyone around him he's up for the challenge.
"The one thing that's impressed me with Daniel is how much he's grown within the offense and how much he's learned," junior wide receiver Curry Sexton said. "He's really a guy who, if you asked me last fall, 'Could you see him lining up under center and leading a team?' I might have been a little bit questionable about it.
"But if you ask me now, it would be a definite yes, just because of how much he's matured and how much he's learned in the offense."
Sams showed his explosive athleticism last year in limited playing opportunities, rushing for 235 yards and three touchdowns, plus completing 6 of 8 passes. But so far this spring it's his new-found command of the offense that has stood out.
"It improved a lot," said Sams, a 6-foot-2, 211-pounder from Slidell, La. "It surprised that I could check to stuff (at the line of scrimmage) as soon as I see it.
"That's something that I learned from Collin. I'd say it surprised me because now I'm in a situation to where I have to make checks and last year Collin was taking the reps that involved checking."
Even to coach Bill Snyder's discerning eye, Sams has progressed when it comes to running the offense, though he continues to look for greater consistency from both quarterback candidates.
"What I've been impressed with is the fact that he really has developed a capacity to get the ball snapped," Snyder said. "Meaning, get in the huddle, get the call (from the sideline), get the plays called, get to the line of scrimmage, identify what's in front of him, make changes that he has to make and then get the ball snapped.
"That's a real task -- that's not an easy thing to do -- and he has really progressed quite well at that."
The next step for Sams is to get the team to rally around him the way it did in two years with Klein as the starter.
"It would be my leadership - being that guy on and off the field," he said. "Because coach Snyder always stresses that it's hard to get the team to follow you if you don't do the right things off the field. That's what I really want to focus on."
Waters, who led Iowa Western to a juco national championship last year, is playing catch-up when it comes to learning K-State's expansive offense, but he has proven to be a quick study.
"Jake just commands an offense," Sexton said. "You can kind of see him as a general a little bit.
"He's learning still, but he's getting us in and out of plays, getting us in the right checks, and as far as throwing the ball he throws a really nice ball. He always puts it in the right spot where only the receiver can catch it."
The 6-1, 210-pound Waters made his mark in junior college as a pinpoint passer, but has showed the ability to tuck the ball and run as well.
"When I see Jake run, it reminds me of Collin how deceivingly fast he is," said defensive tackle Travis Britz. "He's very elusive, he knows how to hit the holes and he understands his blockers.
"Just like Daniel, they both have a knack for running the ball."
Sams admitted that he can learn a few things from Waters when it comes to passing mechanics, but that he in turn is helping the newcomer grasp the offense. So far it has been a healthy competition.
"I love it, because I never can take a day off," Sams said. "We've really been helping each other out.
"We've both been taking reps with the ones. It's not really a dog-eat-dog competition, it's just trying to get better as a team."
A step back
Snyder said Thursday that the same consistency issues that plagued the Wildcats last week remained with the spring game less than two weeks away.
"It was inconsistent up and down," Snyder said of the past week's performance. "I don't think we're a better football team today than we were last week and that concerns me a great deal."
Sophomore Jack Cantele has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed his older brother Anthony as the Wildcats' place-kicker. Redshirt freshman Ian Patterson could handle kickoff duties.
The top punter so far has been junior Mark Krause.