Once heir apparent to Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams will face some serious competition thanks to the signing of junior college transfer Jake Waters.
Out of all 32 members of the recruiting class announced by Kansas State on Wednesday, Waters might spark the most interest. He directed Iowa Western Community College to a national championship last season, passing for 3,501 yards.
Many had considered Sams the favorite for the starting job in 2013. The addition of Waters makes that much less certain — and that is exactly the way Kansas State coach Bill Snyder wants it.
"It will certainly advance Daniel's play and vice versa," Snyder said. "The greater competition you have at any position . the better opportunities for your people to improve their performance and feel compelled to do so and committed to do so, and I think both of them are, so it'll be — hopefully — good competition."
The NJCCA Offensive Player of the Year, Waters led his team to a 12-0 record in 2012. He completed 73.3 percent of his passes — an NJCCA record — and threw 39 touchdowns and just three picks. Snyder also saw less quantifiable characteristics that interested him in the quarterback.
"You can see some of the leadership aspect, not all of it, but you can see that there is a command presence there," Snyder said.
Waters is not the only Iowa Western signee with the potential to make a big impact early for the Wildcats. Defensive back Travis Green and defensive end Devon Nash, both Nebraska natives, also signed with Kansas State.
Nash is one of four defensive ends in the signing class. Depth at that position will be especially important as the Wildcats try to make up for the loss of Meshak Williams and Adam Davis, both All-Big 12 selections and pivotal members of the Kansas State team that went 11-2 last season.
Overall, the class is heavy on defense, with 18 of the 32 signees listed to play on that side of the ball. More players at those positions help create competition at spots vacated by Williams and Davis at defensive end; Arthur Brown, Jarell Childs and Justin Tuggle at linebacker; and Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman at defensive back.
Brown, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a team captain, will be among the most difficult to replace. Seven linebackers signed Wednesday, but one in particular will likely garner the most attention — four-star prospect Nick Ramirez. Kansas State rarely lands four-star recruits, but it got one in the high school star from Lee's Summit, Mo., who recorded at least 115 tackles in both his sophomore and junior seasons.
He could contribute right away.
"You lose some linebackers, so I think that anybody that comes in, we'll certainly take a hard look at and see where he stands," Snyder said.
Page 2 of 3 - Kansas State seldom uses true freshmen, but with this class as with past ones, the coach said he is open to the possibility of freshmen playing. While many decide to redshirt, some do get opportunities at the very beginning of their careers there.
"My encouragement to young guys is don't make that decision right now," Snyder said. "Come in and compete as hard as you can, and when we get close, see where you are on the depth chart."
Kansas lands 18 JUCO players
Kansas coach Charlie Weis is looking toward Kansas State as an example for success.
When Weis was offered the job at Kansas, he compared the two rivals teams. Kansas was 2-10 and about 90 miles down the road, Kansas State was 10-2. His Jayhawks finished the season 1-11 and 0-9 in Big 12 play while the Wildcats went 11-2 and are fresh off a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
After another lackluster year, Weis decided to look more closely at Bill Snyder's team. One major part of Kansas State's consistent success has been the role of strong junior college recruiting. Sure enough, as 14 letters of intent arrived on Wednesday, a familiar pattern appeared. His 25-man recruiting class featured 18 players from junior colleges around the country.
"I'll take the 18 junior college players because they are ready to play now," Weis said.
The Jayhawks return 35 letter winners, but only 12 starters so brining in experienced players is key. Marquel Combs, who signed last December, is the perfect example.
He is the top-ranked junior college prospect according to ESPN despite only playing one year of football in high school.
The Memphis native will come to Kansas with two years of eligibility after leaving Pierce College and join a defensive line that lost two starters. He received more than 50 Division 1 offers and chose Kansas from the list.
“We provide a unique opportunity because almost everyone can see themselves getting into the mix," Weis said.
Chris Martin, a transfer from City College of San Francisco and fellow four-star recruit will join Combs on the defensive line.
From there, Weis added nine players who were ranked in Scout.com's top 100 JUCO Players.
On the other end of the spectrum, Weis also nabbed a pair of three-star quarterbacks from Kansas City high schools.
Jordan Darling will graduate from Shawnee Mission East as the top rated pro style quarterback in Kansas. He comes from a military family and has thrown for 1,000 yards in three different states during high school.
He is joined in the class by Montel Cozart, a two-sport letter winner from Bishop Miege who was named the 2011 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year. He also played for Kansas assistant coach Tim Grunhard before he joined the staff last year.
Page 3 of 3 - As he builds the Kansas program, Weis hopes to move away from the junior college model and add in more high schools seniors, but right now he needs results.
"They're much more grown up," said Weis of junior college recruits. "They've got it figured out and physically they're more developed. They're much more ready for the real world."
Weis, who has experience coaching in both college and the NFL, described junior college transfers as the ideal medium.
"These aren't 18-year-old kids," Weis said. "These guys have been weathered. These guys have already had to live a little bit of a rough life. Everything hasn't been handed to them."
Wednesday morning, with this year's class squared away long before deadline, Weis gathered his staff in the morning to start planning for next year. Weis and his staff have a three-year plan for each position, but this year he is satisfied with his second recruiting class at Kansas.
"I feel good that we have filled every hole numerically with guys we thing are pretty good players," Weis said.