We continue our annual Triplets of the Big 12 series, looking at every conference school’s expected standouts at quarterback, running back and receiver.
Here, we’re talking Kansas State.
Quarterback: Skylar Thompson
FYI: 6-2, 212-pound junior, from Fort Osage, Mo.; ranks fifth in school history in career completion percentage (59.4) and ninth in career passing efficiency (130.5) and 20th in career passing yards. Only one other quarterback in KSU history has also reached 2,000 career passing yards by the end of his sophomore year.
Last year: Started 10 games, played in 11 — 122 of 208 for 1,391 yards and nine TDs and added another 373 rushing yards and five rushing scores. Ranked seventh in the Big 12 in total offense. (Career: 173-291-2,080, 14/7 and 174-640-8 rushing)
It’ll be a new-look offense under new coach Chris Klieman. But count on the quarterback continuity from Bill Snyder’s old offense. That’s because Skylar Thompson returns as the starter and he’s loving the look of the new Wildcats playbook.
Klieman helped mold the career of Philadephia Eagles star Carson Wentz at North Dakota State. After watching enough film of Wentz, Thompson decided the Eagles quarterback is his new on-field role model. Plus, ND State quarterback Easton Stick also made it to the NFL.
“I feel like my skill set compares really well to how they play,” Thompson told reporters at Big 12 media days in July. “They can both pass the ball, but they are also athletic guys that can run. In this offense we are going to do both. We are going to be the center of the offense with a good run game, play-action game and a lot of different aspects that make it appealing for a quarterback.”
A quarterback in a Snyder offense needed to be a tough runner who could convert a big pass via play action. Thompson believes Klieman’s offense will require the same toughness, but with more reliance on passing.
But the Wildcats will need a drastic renovation of its passing attack. It was last in the league a year ago. Meanwhile, Alex Delton, who battled with Thompson for playing time, transferred to TCU.
Running back: James Gilbert
FYI: 5-9, 198-pound senior transfer from Ball State; he left his mark on that program, ranking seventh in school history in career yards and tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns.
Last year: Played in 11 games, and started 10, at Ball State — led the team with 659 rushing yards and seven TDs. (Career: 38 games, 21 starts; 603-2,806-30).
The Wildcats have no clear answer, for now, on who will be their dominant runner. Alex Barnes, who led the Big 12 in rushing last season, left school for the NFL, and Mike McCoy took a medical retirement. Two other seniors graduated.
Look to a trio of transfers — James Gilbert, Jordon Brown and Harry Trotter.
Brown, from North Carolina, joined the team this summer. He rushed for 1,005 yards in his career with the Tar Heels. Trotter, a one-time walk-on who transferred from Louisville, was promoted to scholarship at the start of preseason training camp. Three freshmen will be competing for time — Clyde Price, Thomas Grayson and Joe Ervin.
For now, Gilbert, who arrived at K-State from Ball State, has the lead in the competition for the top spot, mainly because he was on campus this spring.
But the first-team might he a designation without distinction. Klieman relied on five backs last year at North Dakota State when he was winning an FCS national title.
Wide receiver: Dalton Schoen
FYI: 6-1, 209-pound senior from Overland Park, Kan.; is 10 yards away from becoming the 32nd player in school history with 1,000 career receiving yards. He’s averaged 18.0 yards per catch in his career, which ranks fourth all-time at KSU. And he’s been all about the big play — Schoen has only five career touchdown catches, but they’ve averaged 45.8 yards per play.
Last year: Started 11 games — 32 catches (second on the team) for 520 yards and two TDs. Had five catches against Texas, which tied a career high, for a season-high 67 yards. (Career: 55-990-5 in 22 games)
This position might not be a weakness. Isaiah Zuber, who led Kansas State in receptions last season, transferred to Mississippi State. But Dalton Schoen returns for his senior season. He caught 32 passes for 520 yards and a pair of scores last fall. Klieman has talked up Schoen during the offseason.
Our Big 12 triplets
Coming tomorrow morning: Oklahoma