Note: This story is part of the 2010-11 KU football preview section that will appear in Saturday's Journal-World. Check back to KUsports.com throughout the week for a breakdown of each Big 12 team, including an in-depth look at KU's offense, defense and non-conference schedule.
Everyone in the Big 12 knows Kansas State University running back Daniel Thomas is capable of rushing for 1,500 yards and double-digit touchdowns again in 2010.
But according to K-State coach Bill Snyder, the determining factor in whether Thomas does so won’t be Thomas himself. Instead, it may be the Wildcats receivers.
“It is important for us to have significant skill level in a variety of different positions in order not to be an offense that is reliant on solely one individual,” Snyder said. “We have to be able to spread the ball around. We have to find a variety of different ways to do it. So our wide receivers become a major factor in that regard.”
Senior Aubrey Quarles (5-foot-11, 202 pounds) and sophomore Brodrick Smith (6-2, 206) figure to be two of the Wildcats’ top threats at the position, but neither played a down last year. Smith sat out after transferring from Minnesota, and Quarles red-shirted.
That leaves K-State with an unproven receiving corps. When you take Thomas and his 25 receptions from the backfield out of the equation, KSU returns just five receptions from the 2009 team.
“We’re inexperienced at that position,” Snyder said. “But I’ve been pleased with the progress we made during the course of the spring. I think it has to continue in the fall. There’s certainly a lot of improvement to be made. I think we’ll be a bigger, more physical receiver corps than what we were a year ago, but experience is still a factor.”
Others who could contribute at the position include sophomore Chris Harper, a Wichita native who transferred to KSU from Oregon, and red-shirt freshman Tremaine Thompson (5-7, 165), who may inherit the role vacated by the departure of speedster Brandon Banks.
Despite the question mark at receiver, along with the uncertainty at the quarterback position — Snyder said at media days in Dallas that three players still were vying for the starting job, with Carson Coffman having a slight lead over Sammuel Lamur and Collin Klein — Thomas is expecting the Wildcats to improve on last season’s 6-6 record, which left them on the outside of the bowl picture looking in.
“I feel like we’re a better team than we were last year,” the senior running back said. “The main thing is just getting better every day, and that will take care of it.”
Though quiet by nature, Thomas said he has tried to step up as more of a leader this year. According to Thomas, a lack of leadership, on the field, contributed to the Wildcats’ losing their final two games of the season in 2009, as well as their 1-5 record on the road.
“We didn’t have too many leaders last year, but this year we have a lot more,” Thomas said. “I’m trying to be one of them, but I lead by example. I’m not a real vocal guy.”
Kansas State will be tested early this season, as the season opener pits the Wildcats against UCLA on Sept. 4 in Manhattan. K-State fell, 23-9, at UCLA last season.