Quarterback Skylar Thompson could be back in the starting lineup for Kansas State’s regular-season finale Friday.
Head coach Chris Klieman said Monday that he wouldn’t rule out Thompson playing against Texas.
“There’s an outside shot, actually, at Skylar (starting),” Klieman said. “That’s the positive thing. I don’t think he’ll do anything today. Tuesday will be iffy. But the kid wants to play. We’re going to see where he’s at.”
Klieman said he doesn’t expect to officially name a starter for Friday’s 11 a.m. kickoff until later in the week.
Thompson exited with an apparent ankle injury with 4:04 remaining in last week’s 20-10 loss to the Bears. Third-year sophomore Jaren Lewis came on in relief and threw a game-clinching interception on the next play. Klieman did not have an update on Thompson’s health immediately following the loss. Klieman provided no further details about the nature of the injury Monday.
If team doctors don’t clear Thompson to take on the Longhorns, Klieman said the Wildcats will prepare with Lewis and sophomore Will Howard.
“Will would be the guy who we would start,” Klieman said.
Replacing an injured Thompson is familiar territory for Howard.
He played in nine games last year, starting the final seven after Thompson suffered a season-ending injury in Game 3. Howard also moved into the lineup after Thompson dealt with another injury earlier this season; Thompson injured his knee versus Southern Illinois on Sept. 11. Howard then started the next two contests (against Nevada and Oklahoma State, respectively) before Thompson came back Oct. 2 versus Oklahoma.
Since Thompson’s return, Klieman said Howard has taken “the lion’s share” of the reps with the second-team offense during practice.
“Sometimes we’ll put him in with the ones, so he’s taken a lot of repetitions,” Klieman said. “I met with Will (Sunday) afternoon for a while, and he’s excited for the opportunity, because he just feels like he’s grown so much from watching Sky (Thompson) for the last whatever, seven, eight weeks in his preparation.”
If Howard takes the field Friday, he’ll burn his redshirt, as he’s already appeared in four games (Southern Illinois, Nevada, Oklahoma State and Kansas) this fall.
Losing that redshirt doesn’t concern Howard in the slightest, Klieman said. During Klieman’s regular discussions with Howard, the sophomore signal-caller states his willingness to do whatever is needed. That includes removing his redshirt to step in for Thompson.
“He knows this is a great opportunity for him to play and solidify himself. He’s played a lot of football to still be a freshman,” Klieman said. “I’ve seen enough situations in my time of coaching where, if you’re healthy and you have an opportunity to play, typically kids want to play, because you can’t forecast the future.”
Unlike Howard, Lewis never has started a game during his three years in Manhattan.
He redshirted in 2019 and didn’t appear in a single contest last season. The most extensive action of his career was Sept. 25 at Oklahoma State, when he took over after Howard suffered an injury in the first quarter. Lewis finished that game 10-of-19 passing for 148 yards and a touchdown against one interception in a 31-20 loss to the Cowboys in Stillwater, Okla. A native of Columbia, Mo., Lewis has thrown for only 154 yards while completing 52.2% (12-for-23) of his attempts as a Wildcat; he has two interceptions and one touchdown in four appearances, all coming this fall.
Klieman said he won’t lose any sleep if Lewis is called upon again.
“I know that Jaren would be ready to do it as well, because I think those three guys are really close,” said Klieman, referring to Lewis, Thompson and Howard, “and they spend a lot of time together.”