KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bill Snyder wanted someone to get the ball in Tyler Lockett’s hands.
Daniel Sams wanted to play.
And ne’er the twain.
Thus, we are where we are Tuesday, the apex of a 12-hour cycle in which it was whispered that Sams, the Kansas State platoon-quarterback-turned-wideout, would be leaving the school — a whisper confirmed this morning by a short news release from the school announcing that the sophomore had, indeed, been granted a conditional release from his scholarship.
"Daniel requested to be able to continue his playing career at an FCS institution so that he could be closer to some of his aging family members," athletic director John Currie said in a statement. "We appreciate his contributions and wish him the best."
It happens. The surface presumption here is hardly sinister: Sams, an all-world athlete from Slidell, La., wants to be on the field, preferably under center. Snyder, the Wildcats’ venerated coach, already has a quarterback preference.
In Jake Waters, the Jedi Master is doubling down on a more traditional, throw-first, run-if-you-have-to type of signal-caller. The anti-Klein, if you like. As home-run threats go, Lockett remains No. 1 on the roster, and one of the singularly most fun/dangerous weapons to watch in the Big 12.
Waters can get the ball to Lockett in space. Or over the top.
With Sams, we … well, we just aren’t sure, are we?
Whether that last point is the fault of the now ex-K-State quarterback/wideout, or in the laps of Snyder and his staff, is open to debate. On the field, we really saw only half of what Sams could do — the bottom half, the legs half.
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Granted, that bottom half was pretty freaking spectacular, at times. As a redshirt freshman backup in 2012 and as a sophomore last fall, the Louisiana native was used almost entirely on read-option plays or quarterback draws while rarely looking to throw, whether by his choice, or on orders from the sideline. Despite the fact most defenses were gearing up to stop his legs, Sams still rumbled for 807 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013 as quarterback "1A" in Snyder’s uncharacteristic signal-caller platoon, throwing for 452 yards and four scores with four interceptions.
But over the second half of the season, as Waters, a transfer from Iowa Western, got more comfortable running Snyder’s offense, Sams’ playing time dwindled by the week. His frustration became apparent over the final month of the regular season and into preparation for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and a request for a position switch — to wide receiver — was granted as preparations began for 2014.
Apparently, it didn’t take.
For all his athleticism, Sams’ transition still appeared to be a work in progress late last month. The 6-foot-2 receiver was relatively quiet during the annual spring game on April 26, snaring two receptions for nine yards with the Purple (first team). He was targeted five times by Waters, according to the school’s official play-by-play packet.
"I could have probably done a better job of maybe getting him the ball in space a little more," Waters told reporters after the game, "but for what we called and what the plays were, he did a great job."
The official release indicated that Sams wanted to be closer to home, but there was more to it than that. Playing time at receiver this fall figured to be spotty as well, given the presence of Lockett and the emergence of 6-2 Deante Burton, a sophomore who hails from nearby Manhattan (Kan.) High School. When D. Scott Fritchen of GoPowercat.com reached Sams’ mother, Sherrell Griffin, she opened up on the aggravations that Sams had been suppressing since last October:
"He loves coach Snyder and loves the school and everything it stands for, but he wasn’t playing football," Griffin told Fritchen. "He wasn’t playing and wasn’t able to perfect what he was doing. He’s used to playing the entire game and winning ballgames. When he felt that he wasn’t being productive and helping his team go forward, he was just ready to move on.
"I just want my son to be happy. If he’s there and him not playing and not using this athletic ability isn’t making him happy, I’m behind him 100 percent. We’ll sit down and see where he’d like to go and start making arrangements. Don’t forget about us, now. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat."
And there was this from Sams, Monday night, via his Twitter account:
If twitter had enough characters to go on I will do that. I just wanna say I love my team, the fans, and this journey. #emaw at ❤️ I promise
Sams reportedly asked for his release last week during a meeting with Snyder. He’ll have two years of eligibility left and will be allowed by K-State to consider Football Championship Subdivision programs near his hometown — with the exception of Stephen F. Austin, the Wildcats’ opponent for the 2014 season opener on Aug. 30.
"He is such a dynamic athlete, and I think he is capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to," wideout Curry Sexton had said after the spring game. "I think it was a struggle for him, fundamentally, just because (of his) playing quarterback his whole life, and then playing receiver is tough. We saw it towards the end of the spring, that he can really do some good things and come into his own as a receiver."
He might’ve made it work there, given time. He might’ve made it work at running back, safety — any place on the field where he could thrive in space. The kid’s that quick. Whether Snyder pitched that option during their meeting, we may never know for sure. Regardless, Sams did what he had wanted to do all along. He passed.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.