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THOMAS A RECORD-SMASHING SUCCESS

By Mark Janssen
 
NEW YORK - Keep these numbers in mind when it comes to Kansas State's No. 8 Thursday when the Wildcats and Orangemen of Syracuse match 7-5 records in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
 
4 - That's how many touchdowns Daniel Thomas needs to move into fourth place with Josh Scobey for career rushing TDs at 31.
 
58 - That's how many yards DT needs to move into a second-place tie with all-time rushing yards Ell Roberson (2,818).
 
227 - That's how many yards Thomas needs to break Darren Sproles' K-State single-season record of averaging 132.4 rushing yards.
 
After a junior season of 1,265 yards, and a senior campaign of 1,495 yards, Thomas' 25-game Wildcat career ranks with the best of any running back in K-State history.
 
Coming out of Northwest Mississippi Community College as a quarterback, co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel says that Thomas' improvement from year-one to year-two has been "... night and day. I look at him from a fundamental aspect and what he's doing when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. I look at his blocking, his recognition of blitzes, and his demeanor on the sidelines, and he's just a much, much better football player. Last year he was so raw, but he's taken some huge steps."
 
Co-offensive coordinator Del Miller adds to that, "His vision has improved dramatically in seeing holes and running to runback lanes. He's just a complete player today as opposed to last year."
 
The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Thomas has been the definition of a workhorse for the Wildcats setting the record for most carries per game in his career (21.8) and for a single season (23.0). Sproles currently holds the records of averaging 18.1 carries for a career, and 22.4 in his senior season in 2004.
 
"I'm not into pitch counts, but I don't think Daniel has a limitation," said head coach Bill Snyder. "I think durability is how you feel at the time. If Daniel appears gassed a little bit, we'll spell him; if not, we'll keep him going.
 
"There are players who do not prepare mentally as they should and they tire a little quicker," said Snyder. "Daniel does a great job of preparation and his mental approach to the game. I think that has helped his durability."
 
A year ago Thomas rushed for 1,265 yards on 247 carries with 11 touchdowns and an average of 5.1 yards per carry. He also caught 25 passes for 257 yards.
 
This year's numbers are 1,495 yards on 276 carries with 16 touchdowns and 5.4 yards per carry. He also caught 26 balls for 163 yards.
 
Thomas' all-purpose yardage of 3,205 ranks fifth in K-State history ranking him only behind Sproles (6,812), Aaron Lockett (4,023), Brandon Banks (3,828) and Andre Coleman (3,443).
 
Speaking not only to those numbers, but overall, Snyder said of Thomas' senior season, "I think he's better because it's been harder for him. Everyone is now aware of him and where they put their marbles defensively in developing a game plan. But he's played with a perseverance and toughness."
 
As for the 2011 season, Snyder thinks his ace back will find a spot on a NFL roster.
 
"He is a durable back and a fluid back," said Snyder. "He's aggressive, runs well for his size, and catches the ball and has developed into a more than adequate blocker."
 
Agreeing is Dimel: "He's been invited to the Senior Bowl, which is a big compliment. I think what the NFL will like about him is that he is really, really coachable, and he's tough. Put those two things together and they're going to like him."
 
Current draft boards have Thomas listed among the top four backs in the country along with Alabama's Mark Ingram, Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Mikel Leshoure of Illinois. Thomas is currently listed as a late third round draft choice.
 
The last Wildcat running back to be taken higher than the third round was second-rounder Corky Taylor in 1955, and prior to that Veryl Switzer in the first round in 1954.
 
Overall, Snyder said of Thomas' two-year career with the Wildcats, "He's a quality running back, but what I appreciate about him most of all is his humility. He has a great presence with the football team and has been a great teammate."
 
 
ALL-TIME CAREER RUSHING LADDER
1) Darren Sproles, 2001-04, 4,979 yards
2) Ell Roberson, 2000-03, 2,818 yards
3) Daniel Thomas, 2009,10, 2,760 yards

SINGLE-SEASON RUSHING LADDER
1) Darren Sproles, 2003, 1,986 yards
2) Daniel Thomas, 2010, 1,495 yards
3) Daniel Thomas, 2009, 1,265 yards

THOMAS' BIGGEST SINGLE GAMES
1) 2010 North Texas - 36 carries, 296 yards
2) 2010 UCLA - 28 carries, 234 yards
3) 2009 Kansas - 24 carries, 185 yards
4) 2010 Iowa State - 34 carries, 181 yards
5) 2009 Colorado - 20 carries, 145 yards

ALL-TIME RUSHING TDS
1) Darren Sproles, 2001-04, 45
2) Ell Roberson, 2000-03, 40
3) Josh Scobey, 2000-01, 31
4) Daniel Thomas, 2009-10, 27