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It's Waters turn for K-State

8/7/2014

By ARNE GREEN

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN -- Jake Waters looked calm and relaxed Wednesday afternoon facing reporters during Kansas State's football media day, and with good reason.

Not that he's hyper and jittery by nature, but a year ago at this time Waters still was wrestling with a relatively new offense while simultaneously battling Daniel Sams for the starting quarterback job.

Now, with a full year as a starter under his belt, the offense is no longer a mystery and Sams has moved on to McNeese State. This is very much Waters' team.

"On the field it's definitely better because I'm so comfortable in my own skin right now," said Waters, who transferred from Iowa Western Community College and eventually beat out Sams for the starting job, though they split time for much of the season. "I know everything that we're doing.

"I know every single play, I know what we like to get to in certain coverages and I know how (receivers) are going to run their routes. There's definitely a comfort lever with where I'm at."

Waters put up some impressive numbers in his rookie season with the Wildcats, ranking third in the Big 12 in passing with 2,469 yards while completing 61.2 percent of his throws 18 touchdowns. More importantly, he got better as the year went on and was nearly flawless in K-State's 31-14 victory over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, completing 21 of 27 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

"(It took) longer than I'd like, longer than I hoped," Waters said of the learning curve. "Toward halfway through the season probably the game started slowing down for me.

"I learned how to study film a little bit better of our opponents and I just kept growing from there. Then the bowl game, I probably played my best game."

With seven offensive starters back - including All-America wide receiver Tyler Lockett - from last year's 8-5 team that won six of its last seven games, expectations are high. But so is the Wildcats' confidence.

"(The bowl game) showed us what we can do if we go out and play well and execute the game plan," Waters said.

Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel already has seen Waters make strides in the offseason, especially when it comes to managing a game.

"His mechanics pre-snap, getting us into the right plays, getting us in and out of the huddle," Dimel said of Waters' greatest improvement. "Getting up to the line of scrimmage so we can see things from the press box and make changes from the press box and have him make changes from the line of scrimmage.

"He has a good understanding of what we want him to get into and what we want him to do."

Waters agreed that knowledge is king.

"Physically I feel great, throwing the ball and running the ball," he said. "But it helps that I have the knowledge of the offense, too.

"I could throw any route last year but it didn't really mean much if I didn't know what to read on a certain route. Knowledge of the offense helps me get to my reads faster, get to a different play faster and that's a big thing, just knowing the offense."

The fact that he is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback may have Waters more at ease, but it has brought a whole new set of challenges. He's a team captain now and a team leader, which adds other responsibilities.

"Being elected a captain is a great honor but you have to earn that," he said. "You have to show your teammates day in and day out why they chose you to be a captain.

"In bad times, good times, you have to be that positive leader and show the other people how to do things. That's the main thing for me, that this year I have to take a more proactive approach towards it and if I don't like the way things are going I have to step up and say something."

As a quarterback Waters has had leadership responsibilities his whole career.

"I've always kind of been that guy that leads by example, but I can voice my opinion when need be, so that's what I'm kind of doing now in these first few practices.

"I feel really comfortable that the guys are rallying around me and it's been good so far."