This post would have been a lot more difficult to write before May 12th.
Last season, junior college transfer Jake Waters started all 13 games for K-State. But after Daniel Sams took most of the snaps during the Oklahoma State and Baylor games, and rushed for nearly 200 yards against Baylor, it looked like Sams would supplant Waters. It wasn't until Waters turned a close game against West Virginia into a fourth-quarter blowout, then picked apart hapless Iowa State and No. 25 (at the time) Texas Tech that he cemented his status as QB1.
On October 26th, 2013, K-State was 2-4 and clung to a 14-12 lead entering the fourth quarter against West Virginia in Manhattan. Late in the third quarter, Sams fumbled the ball away to West Virginia, and the Mountaineers converted a field goal to take a 12-7 lead. While Sams would come back on to lead K-State to the go-ahead touchdown on K-State's next drive, the Wildcats turned to Waters in the fourth quarter.
Waters responded by going 8-8-0 for 152 yards (19.0 yards per attempt), including touchdown strikes of 30 yards to Tramaine Thompson and 24 yards to Tyler Lockett.
Against Iowa State, the raw numbers - 9-15-0 for 157 yards (10.5 yards per attempt) - weren't that impressive, but K-State rolled to an efficient 41-7 win. The next week, the numbers were even less impressive. Waters threw only nine times for 65 yards and one touchdown in a 49-26 romp over Texas Tech.
The name of the game for K-State in these three games* was not putting up Playstation numbers, but efficiency. Waters completed 71.8 percent of his passes at 11.7 yards per attempt. Most importantly, he never threw the ball to the other team. This stretch turned around K-State's season, gave Waters confidence, and led to K-State's first bowl win since 2002.
*Other than playing weaker competition, obviously.
Alright, so Jake Waters is K-State's starting quarterback in 2014. Here are the raw numbers from 2013.
--Passing: 159-260-9 (61.2 percent completion rate, 3.5 percent interception rate), 2,469 yards (9.5 yards/attempt, unadjusted for sacks), 18 TDs, 189.9 yards/game
--Rushing: 118 carries, 312 yards, 2.6 yards/carry (unadjusted for sacks), 6 TDs, 24.0 yards/game
Let's unpack that a bit.
Waters was sacked 23 times for 134 yards last year. So his adjusted passing and rushing numbers are below:
Passing: 159-283-9, 2,335 (8.3 yards/attempt)
Rushing: 95 carries, 446 yards (4.7 yards/attempt)
So yeah, he's still a pass-first quarterback. But he's enough of a threat as a runner that defenses can't ignore him. Pair him with a running back who the defense has to play honestly, and he can be a threat on the zone read. And that's to say nothing of the POP-pass (play-option pass).
But he's not Collin Klein, in more ways than one. Between nine interceptions and six fumbles (four lost), Waters averaged one turnover per game. In an offense predicated on efficiency and minimizing opponent opportunities, that's too may. For comparison, Klein turned the ball over nine times total in 2012 (nine interceptions, two fumbles, both recovered by K-State). That's astonishing ball protection considering Klein's 511 combined rushing and passing attempts on the season (Waters combined for 378 in 2013).
Now the good news. Here's Waters' turnover line for the final six games of the season: four interceptions, zero fumbles. That's four interceptions in 125 passing attempts, which is still a little higher a rate than I'd like. But you can live with it, especially from a first-year quarterback.
In 2011, Klein completed 161-281-6 passes for 1,918 yards (57.3 percent completion rate, 6.8 yards/attempt). Over 13 games, his per-game average was approximately 12-22, 147.5 yards per game. Before the 2012 season, I repeatedly noted that K-State's offense would be just fine if Klein could complete an average of one or two more passes off play-action, to keep opposing defenses from loading the box against K-State's rushing attack. In 2012, Klein went 197-304-9 for 2,641 yards (64.8 percent completion rate, 8.7 yards/attempt). That's a per-game average of 15-23, 203 yards.
Waters' average game in 2013 looked like this: 12-20 for 189.9 yards. That includes games such as Massachusetts (10 pass attempts), Oklahoma State (7), Baylor (15), West Virginia (13), Iowa State (15) and Texas Tech (9). In almost half of his games, Waters' attempts were limited by split playing time or a grind-it-out approach.
Some of the grind-it-out approach will remain this year. In games against presumably weaker competition, it's likely Waters will struggle to exceed 15 pass attempts. But when K-State really wants to move the ball this year, they'll likely call on Waters to air it out more like 30 times per game (he averaged 27 pass attempts in the other seven games last year).
So the average game (ideally) for Jake Waters in 2014, based on the type of improvement we saw with Klein and the amount of passing we're likely to see in this offense, probably looks like this: 17-25 for 255 yards. Tell me you wouldn't take that right now, and throw in something like six carries for 30 yards per game.
This post is supposed to incorporate all players at a given position, so I will briefly mention that K-State does have other quarterbacks on its roster. Their names are Joe Hubener, Jesse Ertz, Taylor Laird and Zach Davidson. They are all likely very nice young men and, in time, may have productive careers at K-State. But if any of them have to play significant non-garbage time this season, we can go ahead and assume in advance that this season will not turn out like most of us hope.