K-State’s new QB? It’s still a coin flip

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The dead heat continues, probably, past the spring and into the summer, and Saturday did nothing to help on that front. According to the NCAA formula, Daniel Sams put up a passer rating of 221.59 with the first-team offense. Jake Waters, the other fella vying to replace Collin Klein as Kansas State’s quarterback, dropped a 248.98.
 
Reassuring? Yes. Helpful? Um, no.
 
“I can’t tell you,” offered Wildcat wideout Tyler Lockett, who snagged more than a few nice balls from both men, including a juggling, eye-popping, 38-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter. “I mean, I wouldn’t know anything about it. The closer one to it would be Coach Snyder, so I guess you’re going to have to ask him.”
 
Et tu, coach?
 
“I cannot give you a distinct answer right now,” Bill Snyder said, “until we sit down and scrutinize things a little more closely in regards to this game, as well as the other 14 practices.”
 
And, well, there you go.
 
The White (or second string) team ‘beat’ the Purple (first string), 41-38, if you want to keep score the way Snyder did. The points were reassigned at halftime — it’s a spring game, after all, Snyder’s house, Snyder’s rules — turning a 38-0 Purple lead at the break into a 38-0 hole to start the third quarter.
 
But the Kansas State sports information staff has a job to do, and when they totaled up the first-team numbers, it amounted to — and we’re not making this up — 855 yards of total offense, 640 yards passing, and a 76-3 ‘victory’ over the second-teamers.
 
Which means Snyder either has the kind of first-string offense that can run with the Green Bay Packers, or the man might have some depth issues to contend with. Or, more than likely, it doesn’t mean a darn thing, because … oh, anyway, you tell them, Daniel.
 
“You know, today,” the K-State quarterback allowed after throwing for four scores with the Purple, “the defense was also vanilla, so we kind of knew what they were going to run.”
 
Vanilla defenses. Quarterbacks that could be downed only by two-hand touch. Or one hand. Or interpretation.
 
Which, when you cut to the chase, was kind of the dilemma with the whole shebang, from a judgment standpoint. We’ve seen Sams move, and move well, against Big 12 defenses, under the lights, in meaningful minutes. We’ve never seen Waters do that. Until they can run, live, and show how dangerous their legs are, against defenders actually trying to clobber them at actual real-time speed, Saturday proved to be nothing more than a cursory, sketchy judgment.
 
“In scrimmages, Jake looks like Daniel,” big left tackle Cornelius Lucas insisted, “but you don’t know, because you can’t get a really good look at him (after contact).”
 
More substantive for the 16,383 in attendance was a chance to gauge decision-making — Sams and Waters were allowed to make their own calls, Snyder said — and to compare relative arms. And both impressed on that front, however vanilla the opposition: Waters, a 6-foot-1 transfer from Iowa Western Community College, had the throw of the first quarter when he rolled left under pressure and hit Torell Miller in traffic for a 23-yard gain while still on the move; Sams, the 6-2 sophomore incumbent, had the pass of the second quarter, a 55-yard rainbow to Miller for a score.
 
The gamebook credited Sams with an 18-for-28 day passing for 391 yards and one interception with the first team; Waters’ chart showed 14-for-18, 249 yards and three scores. Waters started with the Purple offense — because of a “coin flip,” Snyder said — while Sams finished the afternoon with the first team.
 
Heads, Waters.
 
Tails, Sams.
 
Hey, to be frank, anyone who under center for the Purple looked like Matt Ryan; anyone who quarterbacked the White unit looked like Brady Quinn — hurries, drops, incompletions, and a long line of three-and-outs. And, largely for the reason Sams mentioned, stats in spring games are often deceptive. In a controlled scrimmage, the coach has a short leash on both sides. Stalwarts such as running back John Hubert, center B.J. Finney, wideout Curry Sexton and linebacker Tre Walker didn’t even see the field. It’s football with the safety left on.
 
Still, some of it was real enough, and there were a few snapshots to keep in your back pocket for the next few months. Lockett (nine catches for 231 yards) and Tremaine Thompson (6 for 161) picked right back up where they left off in the Fiesta Bowl, in a good way. The starting offensive line, even without Finney, means business — 5-foot-4 scatback Robert Rose was credited with 141 yards on 17 carries with the first team, and tackling the skill guys wasn’t just allowed, it was encouraged.
 
More encouragement: senior tight end Andre McDonald, who recorded eight catches, 80 yards, and several dents. Imagine a 6-foot-8, 278-pound cat with no fear coming at you, and being charged with the task of bringing that beast down with your bare hands. When the ground shakes along Kimball Avenue, it’s not the construction work on the west side of Bill Snyder Family Stadium; that’s McDonald lowering his shoulder at full-tilt.
 
“He’s pretty strong, tough to bring down, especially if you’ve got to tackle high,” noted fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who scored on an 8-yard reception, much to the delight of his famous NFL brothers in attendance. “I’m glad I’m not playing defense when he’s in.”
 
Defense? There was a defense?
 
“At the end of the day, whoever gets the (quarterback) job,” Sams noted, “this team is going to be very hard to stop.”
 
Heads, Waters.
 
Tails, Sams.
 
“With Daniel, (it’s) more of like him knowing, like, what checks to make,” Lucas continued. “With Jake, you know the ball’s going to come out fast. He’s got a very quick release.
 
“But both guys are awesome athletes … both guys are really shifty. And this spring, you can never tackle the quarterback, so your guess is as good as mine when it comes to that.”
 
Best keep those coins handy, folks.
 
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com