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De'Anthony Thomas has made a splash at Oregon with his speed and versatility, running, receiving and returning kicks.
De’Anthony Thomas led Oregon in catches (45) and return yards last season. This year he is the Ducks’ featured running back.
Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas ran for 128 yards and two TDs on 18 carries in rout of Nicholls State on Saturday.
Monday, September 2, 2013
De’Anthony Thomas has made a splash for Oregon by running the football, catching passes and returning kicks.
So what is the junior’s favorite thing to do on the field?
“Celebrate with my team,” he said in a phone interview Monday.
He has certainly done plenty of celebrating. Last year, he became the first Oregon player in at least 47 years to run for a touchdown, catch a TD pass, return a punt for a TD and return a kickoff for a touchdown in the same season. He averaged a touchdown every 9.2 times he touched the football, finishing with 18 on the season — including six of more than 30 yards.
“I’m just out there to have fun,” said Thomas, whose team visits Virginia on Saturday.
Last weekend, the speedy Thomas rushed for a team-high 128 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries to help the third-ranked Ducks crush FCS foe Nicholls State 66-3 in their season opener. Thomas moved into fifth place on Oregon’s career scoring list (230 points). He averaged 7.1 yards per carry before taking the fourth quarter off.
The 5-foot-9, 169-pound Thomas hurts teams by sprinting on the flank, but his size does not prevent him from running up the middle as well.
“It’s just a great feeling to get back to running between the tackles,” he said. “I’m very physical in the inside. It just comes from the heart.
“I’ve always had a big heart.”
Thomas is one of two Oregon players who generated preseason buzz as Heisman Trophy contenders this year, along with quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota passed for 234 yards and one TD and ran for 113 yards and two TDs against Nicholls State before taking the fourth quarter off. Byron Marshall also ran for more than 100 yards; it was the first time in Oregon history that three Ducks rushed for at least 100 yards in the same game.
The Ducks piled up a school-record 772 yards of total offense with their fast-paced attack last weekend, even though they had the ball for less than 20 minutes. Last year, Oregon ranked second nationally in scoring offense (49.5 ppg) and fifth in total offense (537.4 ypg).
This is Thomas’ first year as Oregon’s featured running back. He did start eight games last year, when he ran for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns on 92 carries, but he was only the Ducks’ third-leading rusher, behind current Carolina Panthers rookie Kenjon Barner and Mariota. He did average a team-best 7.6 yards per carry, though.
Last year, Thomas and Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky were the only players in the nation with more than 700 rushing yards, more than 400 receiving yards and more than 600 kick-return yards.
Thomas likes being able to show his versatility.
“That’s another reason why I love the University of Oregon and our offense. Basically, our offense is just to get guys in space and see what they can do,” he said.
But in last weekend’s rout, he had just one catch for 2 yards.
“Other guys do need a chance to make plays,” he said. “Sometimes I can just be a decoy.
“I just love running routes. I love getting one-on-ones with defenders.”
He led the Ducks last season in catches (45), punt-return yards (averaging 7.1 yards on his 13 returns) and kickoff-return yards (averaging 24.3 yards on his 16 returns).
Although he was not used for kickoff returns last weekend, he was on the field for punt returns — but Nicholls State kicked away from him every time.
“Hopefully I’ll get back to catching passes and contributing on special teams,” he said. “When they do kick it to me, I feel like I’m going to have to make them pay for it.
“Everyone is out there working hard on special teams. Special teams is going to get us to the national championship.”
Thomas — whose first name is a twist on his father’s first name, Anthony — graduated from Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, where he was a highly touted recruit.
Two years ago, he was the Pac 12 co-offensive freshman of the year and made the All-Pac 12 first team as a return specialist.
“When I was in high school, I really wasn’t even a returner — I was just the guy that blocked,” he said.
Thomas is so versatile that he helps Oregon in more than one sport. Running the anchor leg of the Ducks’ 400-meter relay team, Thomas competed in the 2013 NCAA outdoor track and field championships.
“It was great to contribute to both programs,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing it this year also.”
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