Replacing quarterback Collin Klein is no small task at Kansas State. Klein accounted for roughly 69% of the Wildcats offense over the past two seasons not to mention 79 touchdowns. And more importantly, he led K-State to 21 wins over the span which included a Big 12 championship last season.
The candidates to replace him include redshirt sophomore Daniel Sams who was Klein's backup a season ago and junior college transfer Jake Waters. Waters is fresh off leading Iowa Western to the junior college national championship last season.
Both look like the type of quarterback that fits perfectly into Kansas State's offensive system. Sams is probably the better runner, although based on what he showed in last Saturday's spring game, Waters is more than mobile enough to pick up yards on the ground. He also appears to be the more accurate passer of the two.
“Unlike anyone we have seen, he puts the ball in different spots,” KSU wide receiver Curry Sexton said. “If there is a tight window in a certain route where a guy looks like he is covered, somehow he fits it in there. He has that ‘wow’ factor more than what we’ve seen in the past.”
With the talent and tools that seem to mirror each other, whoever wins the job will likely be the guy who is most comfortable running the offense which usually leads to making the fewest mistakes. One thing is for certain, the quickest way to find yourself standing next to Snyder on the sideline is by turning the ball over.
Kansas State is +31 in turnover margin the last two seasons. They turned the ball over only 27 times which is fewer than any other team in the Big 12 over that time. Some consider Bill Snyder to be some sort of wizard for winning football game with inferior talent, but there's really not much magic involved in it. Make fewer mistakes than your opponent and you've given yourself a good chance win a football game.
That's where Sams might have the slight upper hand. He's been on campus for two seasons and has had the opportunity to watch and learn how Klein goes about his business. But that doesn't ensure he won't make mistakes when the lights come on for real. He has only played in one game over the past two seasons that wasn't already decided. The simple fact is, you don't know for sure how he'll respond when and if he becomes the guy to lead KSU's offense.
There's also plenty to like about Waters, but it's nearly impossible to predict how a guy makes the transition from the junior college ranks. What Waters has shown to this point is that he's more than capable of being a very good Big 12 quarterback, but blowing up the K-State's second team defense in the spring game is one thing, doing it against Oklahoma, Texas, or TCU is another.
So no, replacing Klein isn't an easy chore, but Snyder looks to have two good options to attempt to do just that. Who ends up getting the first crack at it - not even Snyder probably knows at this point - will have plenty of expectations to live up to.
Whoever wins the job will be working behind one of the best offensive lines in the league to go along with an experienced running back in John Hubert and he'll have the luxury of throwing to one of the most exciting players in the Big 12 in Tyler Lockett.
If I had to put my money on somebody right now, I'd go with Waters starting the opener against North Dakota State and that's not to take anything away from Sams. There's a lot of upside with either guy and remember, nobody could have predicted - or for that matter expected - Klein would have accomplished what he did in Manhattan.
He far exceeded anybody's expectations and now that he's finally moved on, the cupboard isn't exactly bare although we won't know that for sure until sometime this fall. But here's guessing Snyder will find the right man for the job and the there won't be the near the drop off in Manhattan that some are predicting. The guy happens to have a pretty salty track record when it comes to these sort of things.