MANHATTAN – Don’t count Skylar Thompson yet.
Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said on Monday that Thompson, who left Saturday’s game against Baylor with an apparent ankle injury, was not ruled out as a possible quarterback starter on Friday when the Wildcats will travel to Texas for their regular season finale.
“There’s actually an outside shot from Skylar (playing). So that’s a positive sign,” Klieman said of the sixth-year senior, who has already missed two games earlier in the season in due to a knee injury. “I don’t think he will do anything (Monday), and Tuesday would be uncertain.
“But the kid wants to play and we’ll see where he is, and I don’t think that will be determined until later in the week. If he can’t go, the two guys will be ready with Will (Howard) and Jaren (Lewis), and Will would be the guy we start with. “
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Since returning from a knee injury against Oklahoma on Oct. 2, Thompson had had the best streak of his career, throwing over 1,600 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn’t particularly sharp in the 20-10 loss to Baylor, but was the clear leader of the team.
If Thompson wasn’t ready, Howard would burn a red shirt slated to take his place, which he did as a true freshman last year when Thompson missed the last seven games of the season with a shoulder injury.
Howard has appeared in the four-game maximum allowed to retain a red jersey this season, but Klieman said that’s not a problem.
“Very positive because he knows this is a great opportunity for him to play and solidify,” Klieman said of Howard’s reaction to the prospect of starting against Texas. “He’s been playing football a lot, being still a freshman, and I’ve seen enough situations in my time as a coach where if you’re healthy and you have the opportunity to play, the kids usually want to play, because you can ‘I don’t predict the future (and) what will happen next August or if something happens, but I hit wood, nothing like that. “
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Howard, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound sophomore, could still be considered an eligible freshman if he preserves the red jersey, given the extra year given to all players last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
None of the quarterbacks – Lewis is also a sophomore, but with no red shirt year available – were available to the media on Monday at an abbreviated press conference due to the six days of preparation for Friday’s game.
Second-year running back Deuce Vaughn, who broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season against Baylor, said the team is confident Howard is up to the challenge if he gets the call.
“He’s my guy. We’ve seen all year how he’s prepared behind Skylar, and he’s had Skylar all year round,” Vaughn said of Howard. “Even going back to every time (Thompson) came back after last season, the progress he’s made through Sky-T, and just the way he sees the look and he’s been in the weight room and he ran with us, he looks even better.
“It’s one of those things where if he’s got to go on Friday we’re ready to roll. We’re going to rise with him. We’re going to perform as a team and on offense and that’s what we have that we have. are proud. If Sky-T plays, we will also have to stand up. “
Howard made his first appearance this year when Thompson lost the game in Game 2 of the season to Southern Illinois, then started the next two weeks with a 38-17 win over Nevada and a 31-20 loss to Oklahoma State. He also played briefly in a resounding victory in Kansas.
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Since the KU game, he has continued to train with the second team.
“(He took) the lion’s share of the reps, and took as many reps with both and probably more than Jaren,” Klieman said of Howard, who completed 50 percent of his passes for 267 yards with a hit and one interception this year. “We separated them.
“Sometimes we put him with those, so he’s done a lot of rehearsals. And I met Will (Sunday) afternoon for a while and he’s thrilled with the opportunity because he’s just got the feels like he grew up watching Sky for the last seven, eight weeks in his prep and visit with him, both in the game and the weekly stuff. “
Last year, Howard completed 53.6% of his passes for 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns with 10 picks, winning his first two starts before the Wildcats ended the season on a five-game losing streak. Lewis has appeared in four games, including the Baylor game, where he took Thompson’s place and immediately threw an interception.
Injury woes pile up for K-State Wildcats
K-State had slowly regained full strength during a four-game winning streak, but took a few hits last Saturday in the game against Baylor.
Thompson and starting defenseman Jahron McPherson left the game, as did running back Joe Ervin.
“We had, I think, really good depth until Saturday, but now we’ve been knocked down again,” Klieman said. “There are probably a lot of schools like that.
“You’re hoping that all of those youth training that you’ve been doing and sessions with the players who maybe haven’t played as much, that they’ll have the opportunity to play even a little more. those weeks when we have to have all our hands on the deck. “
Klieman said McPherson, the team’s fourth-best tackle, came out of the game against Baylor in better shape than feared and may be able to play.
“I don’t know if J-Mac will be able to play, but he’s going to try like crazy because to start with, he’s only got a few games left that he knows he’s going to play.
“We had better news on J-Mac yesterday. We didn’t think the news would be good, but it came back much, much better. So we’ll try to work it out and see what it can do this week. “
Klieman added that the availability of Ervin, who racked up 322 yards and two touchdowns as Vaughn’s main replacement, could also be a decision to be made during the game.
On a positive note, defensive end Spencer Trussell, who missed the game against Baylor, could be allowed to return to Texas.
Klieman said the Wildcats will use their only permitted exemption to take additional players on the trip to Texas to improve their depth, especially on special teams.