MANHATTAN — Given his success as a running back, it's hard to imagine Daniel Thomas playing any other position.
But when he came to Kansas State, coaches had to discuss where to place Thomas on the field. The first time coach Bill Snyder watched Thomas play, he saw a quarterback. Others saw a pure runner. Some saw a safety.
His unique mixture of size, speed and toughness created all kinds of possibilities. Snyder said Thomas was open to them all.
"If you say, 'Daniel, you're a safety, you're an offensive tackle,' Daniel would say, 'Show me what to do,’æ” Snyder said. "That's just the way he is."
Thomas expected to play quarterback when he joined the Wildcats. It's the position he played during his stint at Northwest Mississippi Community College, and the spot Snyder initially told him to try. Almost immediately, however, he was moved to running back.
Why? Thomas jokes that his weak arm left Snyder no other choice.
"He probably saw me out there throwing in 7-on-7," Thomas has said.
Snyder offers a kinder explanation.
"I just didn't feel like he was going to be able to throw the football as well as you would hope that you could at that position," Snyder said. "He had capabilities to do a lot of things. When I saw him on video tape it was apparent he could run the ball, and yet there were questions about his ability to throw the ball. How well could he throw it? Well enough to be a Division I quarterback?
"It doesn't mean he can't throw it. I'm not saying that. I am just saying maybe not at the same level that you would like."
Besides, he could tell deep down Thomas wanted to play running back. Maybe he would become a highly-skilled running quarterback with enough preparation, but taking handoffs would allow him to immediately start gaining yards.
The decision paid big dividends, and Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing last season with 1,265 yards as a junior. This season, he has piled up 552 yards in three games.
"I think everything worked out for the best," Thomas has said.
K-State does utilize his throwing ability, though. Thomas has been asked to pass on occasion out of the Wildcat formation. Last season he tossed a short touchdown pass against Louisiana-Lafayette, and
threw a 41-yard pass against Oklahoma.He hasn’t attempted a pass this season, but coaches trust him enough that he is allowed to call an audible into a pass play if he sees the defense lining up to stop the run. Last week against Iowa State, he
called such a play in the red zone, but decided to tuck the ball and run when a defender quickly broke into the backfield.
Every time Thomas gets the chance to throw, quarterback Carson Coffman moves to wide receiver and expects to catch a touchdown.
"We wouldn't have him back there if we didn't think he could throw it a little bit," Coffman said. ".æ.æ. He can throw it well. He kind of has a funny release like Vince Young a little bit, but he can throw it good."
He can also hit hard. Snyder is more than happy with Thomas as a running back.
But he has daydreamed about how Thomas’ skills would translate to defense.
"I don't know if he's the corner type, but strong safety would come to mind," Snyder said. "I think that's a possibility. I don't think anybody would be very happy with me if I thought about lining him up as a safety, I assure you of that. Although Daniel would take in stride and he'd just go do what you ask him to do."
Lamur expected back — Snyder is still optimistic about the status of starting strong safety Emmanuel Lamur. He said he expects to have him back on the field against Central Florida. Lamur missed the Iowa State game with an undisclosed injury.
Powell gets scholarship — Before he earned Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his big game against Iowa State, backup running back William Powell was awarded an athletic scholarship. The former walk-on was thrilled.
"It meant a lot to me," Powell said. "They gave it to me. Coach told me how much he appreciated me being here. It just made that family feeling be even more evident."
Aufner, Hanson to split time — Clyde Aufner has recovered from an injury and saw his first action of the season at right tackle on Saturday. Snyder said he will split time at the position with Zach Hanson against Central Florida.