Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Extra practices allow Daniel Sams to focus beyond Oregon

This time of year is always important for young players on the Kansas State football team.

Whether they are backups or members of the scout team, bowl practices are their time to shine. With a month between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, coach Bill Snyder likes to give young players on his roster extra reps. Though his top priority is preparing for Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, he also wants to prepare for the 2013 season by putting inexperienced players in new situations.

Those who take advantage of the exposure have a leg up in spring practices and a better chance of starting in the fall. Remember, at this time two years ago veteran players raved about Arthur Brown and B.J. Finney. They have been starters ever since.

“Taking advantage of being on the scout team definitely helped me leapfrog into the position I am in now,” Finney said. “I know a lot of guys are working extremely hard there now and they are going to do great for us.”

Daniel Sams wants to make a similar jump next year. The redshirt freshman quarterback is Collin Klein’s main backup, and he wants to be the starter next season. So he is practicing with a purpose.

“I’m getting a lot of plays that Collin usually runs,” Sams said. “It’s been like that. A lot of blitz pickups, checking into the right protection. We are getting ready to get the young guys involved.”

Sams saw a decent amount of action this season in the fourth quarter of blowouts, and showed off his talents. He is one of the fastest players on the team, averaging more than seven yards per carry while scoring three touchdowns. He didn’t get to show off his arm as much, completing 6 of 8 passes for 58 yards, but he certainly looked capable as a dual-threat player.

But that alone won’t be enough to win him the starting quarterback job next season. With successful junior college quarterback Jake Waters on his way to Manhattan fresh off a huge statistical season that ended with a national championship at Iowa Western, he will have competition.

Sams knows what lies ahead.

“I expect a competition,” Sams said. “I know about Jake Waters coming in. I’m not against that. I don’t have anything to do with recruiting, but I feel competition will always make this team better. I didn’t want the position handed to me, anyway. I feel I would have gotten complacent. I’m fine with somebody coming in and competing for the job.”

Waters won’t join the team until after the bowl game, though. Sams has a chance to further prove himself before he arrives.

Mostly, he wants to prove himself as a passer.

“I feel like nobody has seen me make plays with arm yet, because normally when I come in we are just milking the clock,” Sams said. “But I can make a lot of plays with my arm, because people are waiting on me to run. When I get outside the pocket guys are waiting for me to take off. That’s when I hurt them downfield … They come up and I just go downfield”

We’ve all seen Sams throw the deep ball during warm-ups. He looks like he has a strong arm. But on a scale of 1-10, how strong would he rate it?

“I would say about an eight, just to be a little humble,” Sams said.

The main thing he hopes to bring to the field next year: The leadership abilities he learned from Klein.

“Being a quarterback at this level is about more than what you do on the field,” Sams said. “(Klein) has been teaching me that. He’s been an amazing help.”

Sams can help himself with a string of good practices before the Fiesta Bowl.

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Next up on the countdown: Oregon’s offense reminds K-State players of Baylor … Only better.

Last time on the countdown: K-State receivers hope to avoid the dropped passes that plagued them in the Cotton Bowl against Oregon.

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 3, the Kansas State football team will face Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. With that in mind, I am counting down to the big game at University of Phoenix Stadium by attempting to write 21 blog posts in 21 days. I use the word “attempting” because I can only think of so many blog ideas. I’m confident that I can go 21 for 21, but your help is appreciated. Feel free to send a blog idea (or two) my way at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com or via twitter @KellisRobinett.