Skylar Thompson’s nickname might as well be “The Future.”
Thompson, a redshirt freshman quarterback, arrived at Kansas State with considerable recruiting hype as one of the nation’s top 250 prospects, and he has lived up to that billing during his short time on campus. In practice, he has already shown signs that he may one day become the Wildcats’ next great passer.
“He can put the ball wherever he wants,” K-State linebacker Sam Sizelove said. “I remember last year when he was running scout team, he would just torch us with some balls that most Big 12 quarterbacks couldn’t put in there. I am expecting big things from him. He has got incredible arm accuracy and he is a great athlete to go on top of it. He is definitely someone to watch.”
Thompson is well aware of the expectations.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound passer led Fort Osage to a Missouri state championship as a senior and then won K-State’s Red Raider Award as the top scout team contributor on offense last fall. He thinks his game has matured to the point where he can compete with Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton for playing time next season. But he also sits behind both on the depth chart. His focus is not on the future. It’s on the now.
“I do my best, truly, to not think about it like that,” Thompson said of expectations. “I try to downplay it a little bit. Really, all I try to do is focus on myself and progressing every single day like Coach (Bill) Snyder says.”
For now, that means toiling away with K-State’s backup offense while Delton leads the starters and Ertz recovers from surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Thompson has learned to appreciate the daily grind that comes with working up a depth chart, but it took some getting used to. Last year, it was difficult for him to abandon all hope of early playing time and lead the scout team. But the move paid off when he bulked up from his high school weight of 182 pounds.
“It was very beneficial,” Thompson said. “At the time, it was kind of hard to see that, because on the scout team you don’t feel involved. What I took pride in was trying to give our defense the best look possible each and every week. Whether I was imitating Trevor Knight or Mason Rudolph or whoever, my objective was to excel in that role and help our defense.”
Working behind the scenes also allowed him to develop his pocket awareness. In high school, he scrambled at the first sign of pressure. Now, he is learning to stand tall and throw out of protection, using his feet more as a last resort. He has figured out that he can gain more yards by floating passes to Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath than he can running off the edge.
“The game has really slowed down for me,” Thompson said.
He will get a taste of what it’s like to make big plays in front of a crowd at K-State’s spring game on Saturday. The scrimmage will serve as his public debut. Thompson is expected to spend most of his time with the second unit, but he will likely get some work with the starting offense.
“I am excited to get in front of the fans here and hopefully show off my talents as best as I possibly can,” Thompson said. “Really, just the atmosphere at K-State, the fans and the gameday experience is something I have always wanted to experience.”
Snyder has singled Thompson out as the team’s top young performer of the spring and is interested to see how he handles a game setting.
“He’s done some decent things during the course of spring practice,” Snyder said. “He’s still a young pup and has a lot of growth to make, a lot of the decision-making stuff. You see him gaining that each and every day.
“He’s a young guy who can do some nice things and you start to feel super about it. Then, all of a sudden, he does something that makes no sense whatsoever and it brings you back to earth.”
The future may look bright, but it’s not here yet.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett