Last updated: February 19. 2013 10:02PM - 185 Views

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Bill O'Brien found out Thursday morning that he had missed out on winning the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, which went to Notre Dame's Brian Kelly.

But the real stinger for Penn State didn't come for another hour, as the Nittany Lions were also a runner-up in a long-reaching decision.

Jake Waters, rated by some recruiting services as the top junior college quarterback in the country, chose Kansas State over Penn State, leaving the Lions still hunting for depth at the position.

O'Brien had visited Waters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Monday and nearly swayed him to come to State College.

Yeah, for sure, Waters said during his announcement at Iowa Western Community College. Just the other day, I told the (Penn State) coaches I was pretty much leaning there. But I thought it over and something clicked.

God showed me a sign that K-State was the best place for me.

The decision leaves the Lions with still just one quarterback -- rising sophomore Steven Bench -- on the roster heading into spring practice.

Penn State is set to sign heralded high school signal-caller Christian Hackenberg in February, but he won't arrive on campus until the summer. And O'Brien is in need of another arm to create competition for the starting job during spring ball.

The Lions have already moved onto their next JUCO target, namely California's Tyler Ferguson, according to recruiting site 247sports. Ferguson reportedly had given a verbal commitment to Houston on Thursday but is considering the Lions in light of Waters' decision.

Like Waters, Ferguson would be eligible to enroll in January and get started with his new team right away.

Penn State's first choice, Waters led Iowa Western to a national championship this season. In 23 career starts for the Reivers, he completed 68 percent of his passes for 6,270 yards to go with 67 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also racked up 636 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing.

Though the final choice came down to Penn State and Kansas State, Waters had also garnered interest from schools such as Alabama and Texas since the end of the season.

Waters had taken his official visit to Penn State in November for the Indiana game and went to Kansas State this past weekend. Del Miller, the Wildcats' co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, made an in-home visit on Wednesday night.

The opportunity was there for Waters to start immediately at either school, with both having to replace prolific seniors in Penn State's Matt McGloin and Kansas State's Collin Klein.

Waters found himself on the phone with Klein, a Heisman finalist, on Saturday just minutes after the trophy ceremony ended in New York.

Definitely cool, Waters said.

Though his new school in Manhattan, Kan., is about 800 miles closer to home than State College, Waters said that distance did not play a role in his decision.

Waters said the ability to play in bowl games at Kansas State -- Penn State remains under a postseason ban for three more seasons -- was not a deciding factor. But he admitted that it was awesome to know that I have a chance to (compete for another national title).

The Big 12 champion Wildcats will face Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl next month in one of the season's most anticipated games.

At the end of day, I felt it in my gut, Waters said of choosing Kansas State. I had a long talk with the Lord last night, and in my gut, it was the best thing for me as a student and as a player. And I just went with that.

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