Kansas State's Waters making move from JUCO to FBS look easy

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Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters has gone from being an unheralded junior college pivot in Iowa to one of the top players in the Big 12. The senior enters Saturday’s contest with the Longhorns as the team leader in passing and rushing.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

It seems that everyone — opponents, teammates, coaches and scouts — sees Jake Waters, Kansas State’s senior quarterback, a little differently. 

Some say he’s tough, others say he’s persistent; some note his running game, others look at his passing game; some note what he’s already accomplished, others tout his potential.

But head coach Bill Snyder sees it all.

“I see a young guy that is committed to becoming a better player and works diligently at it,” Snyder said at a Tuesday press conference. “He studies the game, has made that improvement [and] has gained more confidence about his abilities in all the facets of the game.”

Waters’ confidence wasn’t an immediate development. Like many Wildcats, the senior signal caller’s collegiate career didn’t start in Manhattan, Kansas, but rather in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at Iowa Western Community College. Waters earned the 2012 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year honor after leading the Reivers to a 12-0 record and a national championship. His junior college performance earned him a spot on the Wildcats’ team, where he started every game in his rookie season at the FBS level last season. Snyder says Waters’ experiences show he’s “committed to continued improvement.” He reiterated Waters’ versatility after Kansas State beat Oklahoma 31-30 last Saturday.

“When I asked Jake, ‘Can you do this,’ he said, ‘I can do it coach,’” Snyder said. “I asked if there was anything we need to be restrictive of and he said, ‘I can do it all. If you want me to run it, tell me. If you want me to throw it, I’ll throw it.’”

Waters was effective through the air and on the ground against Oklahoma, using his arm and legs to register each of the Wildcats’ three touchdowns. With 225 passing yards and another 51 yards rushing, Waters moved his way up the Kansas State record books. He now sits 10th all time in total yards — 4,583 — and completions — 267 — despite this being only his second season with the program.

After the Oklahoma game, multiple Sooners commented on the powerhouse that Waters has become. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight said Waters makes a victory over Kansas State “extremely challenging” as he “conducts the offense very well.” Oklahoma sophomore cornerback Zack Sanchez also echoed those sentiments.

“[Facing Waters is] extremely tough — especially the way they use him,” Sanchez said. “There’s just so many things he can do, from the run to throwing the ball while he’s on the run. He’s just a really tough quarterback to scheme against.”

As the Longhorns get ready to travel north, they, too, anticipate Waters’ dual-threat abilities. Senior tight end Geoff Swaim dubbed Waters as “a hell of a quarterback” and a model of the discipline for which this Wildcat group has become known. Texas head coach Charlie Strong said the Longhorns’ defensive struggles against Iowa State serve as a great reminder of the challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s good that that happened because now we have to slow down Waters,” Strong said. “For our defense, sometimes you need to be brought down to earth. Now they have a chance that they’ve really got a challenge in front of them, and they have to step up.”

Longhorn defenders know they’ll need to be better this weekend. Allowing 45 points and 524 yards of total offense to an Iowa State team that has yet to win a Big 12 game was a major step back after holding Baylor and Oklahoma to just 28 points on 389 yards and 31 points on 232 yards, respectively. 

Senior cornerback Quandre Diggs is looking forward to leaving Austin for the Land of Oz this weekend. His defense will look to improve across the board, but stopping Waters remains the focal point.

“Right now, he’s playing like he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12,” Diggs said. “We have a number of great quarterbacks in this conference, and he’s doing great things.”