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Stepping up: Jake Waters

No one needs to step up more for Kansas State to be successful than its starting quarterback.

It's finally time to look at what K-State must do to replace Collin Klein and not regress this season.
It's finally time to look at what K-State must do to replace Collin Klein and not regress this season.

From the moment I began this series on Kansas State players who need to surpass expectations in order for Kansas State to finish near the top of the Big 12, there was really only one way it could. With just three days to go until Friday's season opener, we turn our attention to the guys tasked with the impossible task of filling the shoes of the heart and soul of the 2012 Wildcats, not to mention the Heisman Runner-Up.

The good news is that both Daniel Sams and Jake Waters can probably do certain things far better than Collin Klein ever could. The tricky part is going to be proving they can match Klein's leadership abilities and other intangibles on the field, like his near-invincibility near the goalline and unparalleled toughness.

We begin with Jake Waters, mostly because Bracket just profiled Daniel Sams yesterday, so I don't want to give you an overdose. Plus, Waters is the starter at least for this Friday, giving him the right to top billing, if you want to call it that.

Even though he hasn't taken a snap yet in an NCAA game, it's pretty safe to say Waters throws the ball better than Klein ever did. The question will be whether he can make the right reads and lead an offense the same way that made him one of the most productive and efficient quarterbacks in junior college history.

Early indicators in the spring game were good, but that really means nothing for how he'll fare in Austin or Stillwater. He'll probably need to spread it around with this receiving corps, which still doesn't really feature anyone who would be included in a conversation about the Big 12's top receiver.

His running could be the biggest question mark, since it's something that he didn't do a lot in junior college. But quarterback rushing has been critical pretty much every season under Snyder going back to Chad May, and it would undoubtedly help Waters make things easier for himself in the passing game.

A successful season would probably see him rushing some 10 times per game, even if it's only to keep defenses honest while John Hubert does most of the work on the ground. Combine that with a completion percentage somewhere around 70 percent, and you'll have the makings of a great season for Waters and Kansas State.

The last first-year starter under Snyder (not counting Klein in 2011 since he debuted in 2010) to win more than 7 games was Jonathan Beasley, and he had the benefit of a defense that allowed less than two touchdowns per game and included the likes of future pros Jarrod Cooper, Jon McGraw, Mark Simoneau, Jeremetrius Butler, Ben Leber and Darren Howard. That does not exist this season.

Snyder's system is not an easy one to come into and master right away, but that's pretty much what Waters will have to do if K-State's season is going to be special. It's certainly a tall order, but I don't think it's an impossible one for a guy that so thoroughly dominated the juco ranks and then came to KSU and beat out a guy who couldn't be more of a Snyder prototype at quarterback if a wizard had created him.

Previously in this series:

Dante Barnett

Chaquil Reed

Kyle Klein

Jonathan Truman

Mike Moore

Mark Krause

Jack Cantele

Glenn Gronkowski

Devon Nash

Travis Britz

Kip Daily

Ryan Mueller

Blake Slaughter

Randall Evans

Boston Stiverson/Cody Whitehair

Andre McDonald