Diesel's Thomas steps from field to coaching box

03/16/02 Kearney Cyberhub
KEARNEY — Former Tri-City Diesel receiver Rob Thomas won't be running routes in the National Indoor Football League this season.

Instead, he'll be designing them.

Thomas, who caught 28 passes for 246 yards last year, has traded his helmet for a clipboard and will act as the Diesel's offensive coordinator this season.

"He is going to do it all," Tri-City coach Leland Skeen said. "And I feel very comfortable with him calling the plays. He took the playbook I developed last year and put some new twists in it."

Skeen said his focus will be player personnel decisions, and he plans on letting his assistants handle the majority of the X's and O's. Skeen will coach the Diesel's special teams and organize practices.

Meanwhile, Glen Snodgrass will return for his second season as the Diesel's defensive coordinator. Snodgrass is the head football coach and assistant basketball coach at Overton High School.

Ryan Luke (defensive backs) and Pat Avey (lineman) round out Tri-City's coaching staff. Luke was the Diesel's Director of Scouting last season.

"There was basically just three of us coaching last year," Skeen said. "And at this level, you have to spread out the duties a little bit. There is more to do than just coaching in this league."

The Diesel's season-opening game versus La Cross tonight (Saturday) won't be the first time Thomas has put on a headset.

Thomas served as a receivers coach at Bethaney College in 1997 was the offensive coordinator of the junior varsity team. In 1998 he moved along to Black Hills State University where he coached the receivers.

Thomas, who had plans of playing in the Canadian Football League before accepting the Diesel job, has earned his stripes on the playing field. He suited up for Utah State, Snow Junior College and Bethaney College before playing for Tri-City.

"I started speaking up on some things last year that may have helped us out," Thomas said. "So I think that might have opened up the job for me.

"Last year the offense was pretty weak to tell you the truth. The passing routes didn't really complement each other, and we didn't always take advantage of what the defense was giving us."

Thomas hopes to remedy that problem by implementing his own version of the West-Coast offense. With Thomas calling the plays, the Diesel will pass short, pass short then pass short again.

"I've combined a lot of offensive philosophies that I've been exposed to during my playing career and scaled it down to the arena game," Thomas said. "Basically we are going to take whatever the defense gives us. … As long as we don't get crazy, we shouldn't beat ourselves."

Thomas' nickel-and-dime scheme is expected to move the chains and keep turnovers at a minimum. The Diesel averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on the ground last season, and Thomas is expected to replace many of those blasts with zone floods and screens.

"Those are just like a running plays in that scheme," Skeen said laughing. "Of course Rob comes from Utah so that's nothing new to him."


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