Bill O’Brien may be on the verge of landing his second star quarterback of the year.
And his first junior college player.
Most importantly, Jake Waters would fill a serious need for Penn State.
He just led Iowa Western to a junior college national title and will get an in-home recruiting visit from O’Brien on Monday.
Waters is expected to announce his decision soon after between the Nittany Lions and Kansas State — though Alabama has suddenly started showing significant interest. The Crimson Tide have yet to offer a scholarship.
Waters (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) is ranked as the top junior college quarterback and No. 18 overall JC prospect nationally by Rivals.com.
He must decide in the next couple of weeks if he intends on enrolling in the school of his choice in January. He will have three years to play two wherever he goes, meaning he has the option to redshirt.
“I think (the Nittany Lions are) in great shape. I don’t think they could be in better shape (with Waters),” Scout.com recruiting analyst Greg Pickel said earlier in the week. “I’d be surprised at this point if they didn’t get him.”
Then national champion Alabama and coach Nick Saban got involved. “If they offer, it becomes a whole new ball game, simply because it’s Alabama, and I’d expect him to visit Tuscaloosa,” Pickel said tonight.
Certainly, Waters’ numbers were mind-bending this fall. He entered the NJCAA Championship game with 39 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He was completing 72.4 percent of his passes.
In the title game victory, he threw for 306 yards on 32-of-40 passing, completing all 17 of his second-half attempts.
Getting a commitment from Waters would help Penn State in several ways.
First, O’Brien needs to bring in competition for true sophomore Steven Bench — the only scholarship quarterback on the roster.
Remember that star Virginia quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg will not arrive at Penn State until the summer and the staff would like the option to redshirt him.
Secondly, since Waters is a junior college product from an up-tempo, passing offense, he would seem to be an experienced fit into O’Brien’s offense — more apt to challenge for a starting role than a true freshman.
And because he will enroll in January, his scholarship would count with the previous recruiting class of 2012. That is a huge advantage since Penn State is only allowed to bring in 15 scholarship recruits in 2013 because of NCAA sanctions.
“He has a lot of characteristics that made (Matt) McGloin successful this year,” said Cory James, a recruiting expert with Lions247.com. “He has poise in the pocket. He knows how to move in the pocket to avoid sacks and negative-yardage plays.
“He’s a smart kid and throws a catchable ball. He’s not a top-tool guy, but he has more tools than McGloin coming in.”
Recruiting analysts say Waters has a stronger arm and is more mobile than McGloin, who O’Brien and quarterbacks’ coach Charlie Fisher turned into the Big Ten’s leading passer.
Fisher and running backs coach Charles London traveled to Iowa to watch the junior college championship and apparently enjoyed a productive recruiting meeting with Waters.
“He’s a pocket passer with the ability to use his legs to get out of hairy situations,” Pickel said. “He has a great arm, no issues of throwing down field. He’s smart in the pocket with the ability to avoid the rush. He has a lot of things you look for in an elite-level quarterback.
“He had a couple of throws (in the title game) that not a lot of guys out there can make right now.”
If the Lions do lose out on Waters, they will turn their efforts to another junior college product: Tyler Ferguson, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound prospect from the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif.