Cotton Bowl Countdown: K-State coaches already looking for the next Collin Klein

As this season has taught us, there is only one Collin Klein. So don’t mistake my headline as meaning Kansas State coach Bill Snyder and his staff are out on the recruiting trail trying to discover his younger clone.

What I mean is that the Wildcats have discovered how nice it can be to have a talented, dependable quarterback under center on a weekly basis. The position battles of the past two seasons are long behind them and the wildcat formation is no longer a necessity to keep the offense moving.

Klein has brought great stability to the huddle, and that has translated into success on the field. K-State coaches want that to continue for years to come, but he only has one more season of eligibility.

The Wildcats need to establish his backup for next season as quickly as possible and start grooming a quarterback for the future. When Klein leaves, they want to have the next guy in line to be ready to play well immediately.

So who will that quarterback be?

Right now it looks like Daniel Sams, a dual-threat player out of Louisiana who has spent his first year in Manhattan with a redshirt. But don’t count out incoming high school senior Tavarius Bender, who K-State co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said today will come in next semester and practice with team during the spring, or Justin Tuggle.

Co-offensive coordinator Del Miller and Dimel both discussed the candidates during Cotton Bowl media days this morning.

They agree establishing a backup quarterback for next season is a top priority. In a perfect world, they develop that backup to a point where he can give Klein a few plays off in each game.

“That would be really good,” Dimel said. “It would be very good on our nerves to know we have a quarterback that can get in there and do a good job for us next year. That’s always an important thing. When you’re running a quarterback like we do with Collin you’ve got to have a good backup. It’s going to be very critical in spring ball that we get a backup quarterback.”

By all accounts, Sams has been playing well enough on the scout team to be that type of player. He is a big, athletic quarterback. But he needs to dedicate himself more off the field.

“Daniel has a great deal of talent,” Miller said. “He’s got a good mentor ahead of him to learn from in terms of Collin. He’s got to go through those developmental years still.”

He apparently grew impatient of watching games from the sideline this season, and asked his coaches if he could switch to receiver the way Klein did as a freshman.

Their answer: Nice try, but no.

“He wanted to get on the field,” Miller said. “At the quarterback position you’re not going to get on the field right away. It’s a position where you have to go through a little developmental time. It doesn’t just happen. You know how the kids are. They want to get out there as quickly as possible. He’s got plenty to learn before he’s ready to play.

“He’s got his own style. He’s pretty raw right now, but he has some talents and we’ll have to mold those and make sure he understands the mental part of the the game and intensity of preparation.

“Yesterday, Collin gets back from signing autographs at a pizza party and goes straight from there to the film room. That’s what Daniel has got to learn to do.”

Tuggle also asked to change positions a few weeks ago, and Dimel gave that move his blessing. Though he hasn’t given up on Tuggle, a former highly-touted quarterback out of Blinn junior college, at quarterback he is interested to see if he can adjust to defense.

“He’s a senior. Time is running out with Justin,” Dimel said. “This is a time during bowl preparation where we can look at him. It’s not necessarily a permanent move. We’re just going to look at him during bowl preparation and see how it works out.

“… I definitely would not count Justin out of the mix. He’s just got to decide which position he wants to play.”

Whoever ends up with the job will be an important player next season.

“We’ve got to find ourselves a backup quarterback and a future quarterback,” Dimel said. “They will all be in the mix.”

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 6, the Kansas State football team will face Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. With that in mind, I began counting down to the big game in Cowboys Stadium on Dec. 6 by attempting to write 31 blog posts in 31 days. I use the word “attempting” because I can only think of so many blog ideas at the moment. I’m confident that I can go 31 for 31, but your help is appreciated. Feel free to send a blog idea (or two) my way at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.