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JUCO QB picks Kansas State over Penn State

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 12:44 p.m.

Penn State came up just short Thursday as it tries to address depth and experience issues at quarterback.

Jake Waters, a coveted junior college player, picked Kansas State over Penn State even though he had admittedly been leaning toward signing with the Nittany Lions.

Waters threw for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns in leading Iowa Western Community College to a 12-0 record and a national championship. The 6-2, 215-pounder completed 73.7 percent of his passes, breaking the single-season junior-college record that had been held by Cam Newton.

Penn State targeted Waters as a candidate to compete for the starting job following the graduation of record-setting quarterback Matt McGloin, and Bill O'Brien and his staff came close to landing him.

“I told the coaches the other day that I was leaning their way,” Waters said during a news conference Thursday morning. “But something just clicked, and in my gut I knew where I was supposed to be.”

Waters will get the chance to succeed Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein at Kansas State.

His path to a starting job may have been clearer at Penn State.

Steven Bench, who just finished his freshman season, is Penn State's only scholarship quarterback on the roster, leaving the Nittany Lions perilously thin at the position. Blue-chip quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg has verbally committed to Penn State, but he can't sign with the school until Feb. 6, and he won't take part in spring drills.

O'Brien and his staff will almost certainly try to sign another junior-college quarterback since a player from those ranks can enroll in January and not count toward Penn State's 2013 recruiting class.

Penn State is only allowed to sign 15 players because of NCAA sanctions. Any recruits who enroll in January, however, count against the 2012 recruiting class.

A handful of pledges, including tight end Adam Breneman and running back Richy Anderson are expected to be at Penn State for the start of the spring semester, leaving Penn State with a couple of scholarships to give.

Bench, who switched his commitment to Penn State last January following the hiring of O'Brien, will enter spring drills as the No. 1 quarterback.

The Georgia native moved ahead of Sto Rox's Paul Jones during preseason practice and became the backup to McGloin. Jones eventually left the team — he will transfer to Robert Morris — and lack of depth at quarterback has become more glaring with the departure of McGloin.

Bench played sparingly last season behind McGloin, who led the Big Ten in passing and set a slew of Penn State records. He completed 2 of 8 passes for 12 yards and rushed 3 times for 18 yards.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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