By DAVE SKRETTA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jake Waters will be under center when defending Big 12 champion Kansas State opens its season Friday night against defending FCS national champion North Dakota State.
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams is expected to play at some point in the game.
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said on the Big 12's media teleconference Monday that Waters, a highly touted junior college transfer, earned the nod over Sams to replace departed Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein on their strength of more consistent play throughout fall camp.
Waters joined the program for the spring semester, and both of the quarterbacks took reps with the first-team offense leading up to the week of their opener.
"We were fortunate to have him at midterm last year, so he got to go through the offseason program, learn a little about what our work habits and invest himself in study time as it relates to our offense," Snyder said. "There's an awful lot to learn as a quarterback."
That's particularly true in Snyder's complex system, which utilizes elements of the read-option along with other offensive sets to confuse opposing defenses.
"I think as much as anything," Snyder said, "he invested himself and he truly worked at it extremely hard and did above and beyond what was asked of him."
Snyder also said that Sams missed some "practice opportunities" during the later stages of fall camp, but the coach did not say whether that was caused by an injury.
Waters is considered the more polished passer after throwing for more than 3,500 yards, 39 touchdowns and only three interceptions for Iowa Western Community College last season. Sams is considered the better runner after gaining 235 yards in parts of eight games a year ago.
That situation isn't foreign to Snyder, who has juggled quarterbacks in the past.
In 2002, Ell Roberson was thought to be the better runner and Marc Dunn the better passer, and while Roberson took the majority of No. 1 snaps, Dunn still appeared in 10 games.
"I like the idea of having two young guys that can play the position with somewhat of equal skill level," Sndyer said, "even though they're somewhat a little bit of difference in their game.
"What we're looking for is a complete quarterback," he added, "one that can invest himself in the running game, one who can invest himself in the passing game. And both of these guys can do that. It's not a matter of having two totally separate skill sets."
Waters will have some big shoes to fill on Friday night.
Klein took over the job as a junior and led the perennially overlooked Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl. He returned as a senior last season and accounted for more than 3,500 yards, jumping into the Heisman race while leading the Wildcats to the Big 12 title and the Fiesta Bowl.
What made Klein invaluable, though, was his leadership ability. His natural charisma made him the team's unofficial spokesman, and he was looked up to by players on both sides of the ball.
That ability may be what ultimately lands Waters or Sams the job on a full-time basis.
"He's not a vocal leader and we're trying to draw some of that out of him," Snyder said of Waters, "but he gained respect, which you can't have if you don't have the respect of others, and he gained the respect of his teammates by his consistent approach to the game.
"I have to say too, I have a great appreciation for Daniel," Snyder added. "They were in such heavy competition for the position. Daniel was a great asset to Jake and still is."