Near the end of last year, one of Kansas State’s most dynamic playmakers wasn’t on the field.
He was standing on the sidelines.
This spring, Daniel Sams will get another chance to get back on the field.
Only this time, the former quarterback will be at a different position.
Tuesday in his first news conference of the spring, K-State coach Bill Snyder confirmed the worst kept secret in Manhattan, Kan. -- that Sams is making the switch to wide receiver.
“Right now he is just focusing at the wide receiver position,” Snyder said. “He wants to play there. I’m going to give him the opportunity.”
Giving Sams another opportunity could pay off for him. And it could pay off for a K-State offense that is brimming over with potential.
“We’re definitely going to find a way to use him,” said quarterback Jake Waters, who beat out Sams last season. “He’s a great athlete, and we need to get him touches.”
As a quarterback last season, Sams was spectacular at times while touching the ball. Despite the limited role, he still finished ninth in the Big 12 with 807 rushing yards while averaging 5.31 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Sams went completely off in an early October clash with eventual Big 12 champ Baylor. With starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson out with injuries, Sams almost willed the Wildcats to the upset, rushing for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
But including at the end of that Baylor game in which he threw a costly late interception, Sams also struggled at times with his decision-making. Eventually, Waters emerged out of the quarterback time share with Sams to become the clear-cut starter the second half of the season, while leading the Wildcats to wins in six of their final games. Sams attempted only one pass combined in K-State’s final three games.
“The dialogue I had with Daniel was, I want you to be happy, I want to see you on the field,” Snyder said. “He approached me about playing as a wide receiver, I made my recommendations to him, but I said I would certainly abide by his and give him a chance. There’s a lot of places Daniel can play. If he wants to go out and be a wide receiver, he needs to go out and be a wide receiver and let reality set in.
“I like the way he is working at it. He’s made some headway. There have been some ups and downs in there, as well. But I feel that he can be competitive in that arena.”
Snyder has a track record of finding the right position for his best playmakers. Collin Klein was a receiver before he became a Heisman finalist quarterback in 2012. Daniel Thomas was a junior college quarterback before he became an All-Big 12 running back in 2009.
Sams is far from mastering his new position. But he’s also begun to show signs he can be a weapon there, too.
“You’ve all seen him. He is a great playmaker, especially with the ball in his hands and in space,” said sophomore wideout Deante Burton. “He’s got a few tips and little tricks to learn, but he’s a tremendous playmaker. His athleticism is [among] the best in the country.”
This spring will serve as the first proving ground. But if Sams’ athleticism translates to receiver, he’ll only augment an offensive attack that should be among the best in the Big 12.
Lockett is one of the top-returning receivers in the country and figures to garner preseason All-American consideration after finishing 11th nationally last season in receiving yards per game. Possession receiver Curry Sexton is back, as well, after placing second on the team last year in receptions. The Wildcats also added one of the top juco wideouts in the country in Andre Davis, who is already on campus.
But to maximize their full potential offensively, working Sams back onto the field in his new role will be paramount.
“He has got to be on the field,” Snyder said. “We’ve just got to find the spot for him.”