COLUMBIA — Daniel Thomas has thrown the ball three times this season. He has completed all three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
But Thomas, who played quarterback in high school and some in junior college, is playing running back at Kansas State. He has rushed for 1,087 yards this season.
“He’s a physical running back,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said on the weekly Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “He has pretty good size, but he just has, which he demonstrated this past weekend, he’s got a major motor that keeps him going. He stays on his feet well.”
In high school in Hilliard, Fla., Thomas was a running quarterback. He accounted for 22 touchdowns his senior season, 11 passing and 11 rushing. He rushed for 1,100 yards and threw for 936 yards.
He continued his dual-threat ways at Northwest Mississippi Community College. During his last season there, he had 103 carries for 562 yards and six rushing touchdowns. But he also attempted 51 passes, completing 24 of them and throwing for two touchdowns. Snyder expressed uncertainty about Thomas’ ability at quarterback.
“In all honesty, I don’t know,” Snyder said. “We haven’t played him there. I think when I saw him playing on video he was playing at wide receiver. He’s a good young guy. His capacity as a quarterback, I think he’d probably be a pretty good running quarterback. He probably has deficiencies in his capacity to throw the football.”
Thomas’ ability to run has helped put Kansas State in first place in the Big 12 North. He ran for 185 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win against Kansas.
With a 4-2 Big 12 record, the Wildcats have a half-game lead over second-place Nebraska in the Big 12 North standings. But they haven’t always looked like they would contend for the division championship.
Kansas State went 2-2 in its nonconference schedule. Its two wins were against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech, both FCS (formerly Division I-AA) schools. Louisiana-Lafayette, a Sun Belt school, beat the Wildcats 17-15. After opening the conference season with a 24-23 win against Iowa State, the Wildcats lost 66-14 to Texas Tech.
“I think the guys have been very, very responsive,” Snyder said. “I thought they’d go back to work and try hard to overcome the loss that we had down there (at Texas Tech), particularly the way it happened. Was I certain that they would? No. I kind of had that feeling that we would get better. Now would we win more ballgames? That wasn’t my thinking one or the other. It was just ‘Can we overcome this, get back on track and continue to improve.’”
The improvement came almost immediately. The Wildcats beat Texas A&M 62-14 the next week. Since the loss to Texas Tech, Kansas State is 3-1. Now, Snyder is concerned about keeping his team focused on the next game as opposed to winning the Big 12 North or other long-term goals.
“They’ve been pretty good about not fast-forwarding,” Snyder said. “Although, earlier in the season, we weren’t in a position to do that. Now they may be in that position. But I would like to think they’ve established a mindset that’s been built up over the past three or four months. Hopefully they keep their focus where it belongs.”