Following each step by Kansas State, it seems curiosity surrounding the Big 12 North Division-leading Wildcats continues to grow as well. The leading topic of questions posed to Coach Bill Snyder during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday: Running back Daniel Thomas.
Bill, obviously Daniel Thomas has played very well for you guys this year. He came into your program thinking he'd probably be a quarterback when he first arrived at your program in Manhattan. Just talk about his development as far as what he's been able to do in your offense in providing a consistent ground game for you guys.
SNYDER: "Well, Daniel is a very good young person. He's very conscientious. He's a hard worker. He obviously has some physical capabilities. He gives us kind of a multi-purpose dimension. I like that he, as a running back, is a pretty physical running back. He has reasonably good size but as he demonstrated this weekend, he's got a major motor that can keep things going. He stays on his feet well. He's gotten better as the season has progressed. Some of that comes from understanding the system a little bit better. Some of it comes from just the experience. Some of it from the daily practice routine. But his development has been very good. He's playing well."
Bill, you mention his development. He came into your program very late. Just talk about how rare it is for someone who arrived as late as he did in your program to be able to turn things on and develop into the kind of back he has for you guys this year.
SNYDER: "Well, I think it might be a little bit easier at that position than it might be at a number of other positions. Grant Gregory has had to do exactly the same thing at his position. It's probably a little bit more difficult. But as you indicated, coming late, part of it is the social development as he relates to young people in the program. But he's a very humble, young person. When you first enter a program, humility is a major asset and so our players have taken to him because of that. And that made the transition much easier. And all of those youngsters -- Grant was the same way, Emmanuel Lamur was the same way -- just young guys that have come in here and have been here just a brief period of time and are good, young guys, humble, and work extremely hard and are well-liked by their teammates. That made their transition a little bit easier."
When did Daniel come in and out of curiosity, what is he like as a quarterback?
SNYDER: "Well, in all honesty, I don't know. We haven't played him there. I think when I saw him in videotape, he was playing at wide receiver. He's a good, young guy. His capacity as a quarterback is I think, probably, he'd be a pretty good running quarterback. He probably has some deficiencies in his ability to throw the football. Nevertheless, and we've utilized him back there taking snaps and he's thrown the ball there a few times as well."
With every game you play it seems the stakes seem to go up. I'm wondering how your team has handled the ride so far and what you do not to curb their enthusiasm but to keep their feet on the ground?
SNYDER: "One of the things that we haven't, which is a difficult thing for coaches to establish, is the consistency within your program in all phases of it. We have shown some inconsistency in our play but nevertheless our approach has remained consistent. I think our young people have responded favorably to that, or seemingly so, anyway. It's the old adage, a game at a time, and just trying to improve ourselves today and then we'll look at tomorrow when it comes. They've been pretty good about not fast-forwarding. Earlier in the season they weren't in a position to do that. Now they may be in that position but I would like to think they're establishing a mindset that has built up over the last three or four months and hopefully they'll keep their focus where it belongs. I'm not naive enough to think that they don't think about what could take place, but if we spend very much time with that, then we'll be in some serious trouble. I believe they have an appropriate mindset. I'd like to believe that to be the case."
Bill, you've had success bringing in guys from the junior college ranks that have come in and made an immediate contribution. Some of the things you were talking about Daniel and Emmanuel, and I know Grant isn't a JC guy, but when you look at these guys who have come into your program, the humility and the ability to fit in, maybe even more so as far as their talent is concerned but just their personality, is that as important of a thing as you look at?
SNYDER: "Yes, it's critical, as you can imagine. Even though Grant isn't a community college guy, he's a transfer who comes in and is in a capacity where you need leadership. You have a safety on your football team that you need to have some leadership from him as well and they've got to be engaged with the people who are in the program. Even though the program is new to everybody, none of us have been together very long. But they didn't have the opportunity to be here during a vast majority of the summer and certainly weren't here during the spring, so to be able to interact with our young people is really critical. They're a part of a unified organization, not sitting on the edge of it. And they've done that quite well. The simple answer is the character of the young people that you bring into your program and the values that they possess are very, very important in how they're going to define themselves within the program."
Bill, coming off the loss to Texas Tech, did you have any indication that you'd be able to turn it around and be leading the Big 12 North?
SNYDER: "Well, that's just not kind of the way we think. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to think along those lines. It was about what the lessons were we learned from that ball game and what we could do to get ourselves better and let's set out to do that, which would have been the case regardless of the outcome of the ball game. I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't try to make those type of projections. Did I see anything as I reflect that would've told me that we would've gone one way or the other? I can't tell you that I did. These young guys have been very, very responsive and I thought they'd go back to work and try hard to overcome the loss that we had down there and particularly the way that it happened. Was I certain that they would? No, but I kind of had that feeling that we could get better. Could we win more ball games? That wasn't the thinking one way or the other. It was just can we overcome this, get back on track and continue to improve? They've done that. I felt I had an indication that they would continue to try and do that and they did and we have."