More De'Anthony Thomas at receiver better for him and Ducks

More De'Anthony Thomas at receiver better for him and Ducks
November 15, 2013, 12:30 pm
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DAT: I don't regret my 40 point comment

EUGENE – Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas spent more time at his more natural position against Stanford and we could see more of him at wide receiver the rest of the year.

Yes, wide receiver is the natural position for this 5-foot-9, 170-pound man and it’s one he embraces playing.

Thomas said this week that he enjoys playing receiver and hopes to get more time there as season continues.

“I love running routes, I love catching the ball and I love making people miss in space,” he said.

It’s also the position that will provide an opportunity for him to earn a lot of money in the NFL.

Thomas said he sees wide receiver as his chance for success in the NFL. And he’s right.

Thomas would not be an impact running back in a pro-style system. It’s why USC recruited him out of Los Angeles as a five-star defensive back.

In Oregon’s spread, zone-read system, Thomas’ speed makes him a great weapon from anywhere because the offense is about getting fast players into space. Between the tackles, however, he’s not nearly as potent.

More and more NFL teams are employing spread systems each season. But rest assured that none of them are looking for 170-pound running backs to give the ball to on a regular basis. In fact, there has never been an impact running back at that size in the modern history of the NFL.

Thomas was perfect as a backup running back at Oregon playing behind LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner.

The Ducks used Thomas in spots, game planning when to unleash his electric open-field abilities.

But a featured back must also do the dirty work. Run inside. Block. In that regard, Thomas is not on the level of James or Barner, both of whom are being used sparingly in the NFL at about 195 pounds each.

Thomas runs with heart and toughness and has the cutting ability to get yards but simply lacks the bulk to back it up in the trenches.

That 20 pounds matters far too much to expect Thomas to have a major impact during an entire season at 15 to 20 carries per game.

But as a wide receiver or slot that also receives carries here and there, Thomas is one of the most dangerous weapons in college football.

As a freshman, Thomas led the team in receiving yards (605) and finished second in receptions (46) and receiving touchdowns (nine). That year he also rushed for 608 yards and seven touchdowns on 55 carries at 10.8 yards per carry.

Granted, some of Thomas’ receiving production came from out of the backfield but Thomas often lined up at wide receiver or in a slot position.

Last year Thomas led the team in receptions (45) and finished second in receiving yards (445). His five receiving touchdowns ranked third. Thomas also rushed for 705 yards and 11 touchdowns on 92 carries at 7.6 yards per carry.

This season, while essentially missing 4 ½ games with an ankle injury, Thomas has rushed fro 399 yards on 58 carries (6.9 per carry). Against the two toughest defenses Oregon has faced (UCLA and Stanford), Thomas averaged 3.8 yards per carry (16 carries for 31 yards). He has just 10 receptions for 120 yards and no touchdowns as a receiver.

Helfrich said the development of sophomore running back Byron Marshall (925 yards, 12 touchdowns) and freshman running back Thomas Tyner (439, eight) while Thomas’ ankle healed, has given the Ducks more flexibility in the backfield.

Helfrich said that how the team uses Thomas the rest of the year would be determined by matchups and the defensive schemes of opposing defenses. Using Thomas out wide with Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe gives the Ducks the fastest group of receivers it has ever had on the field at one time.

Thomas, who could make himself eligible for next April’s NFL Draft, said he would do whatever is asked of him and is all about having fun.

But playing wide receiver is something he enjoys doing and believes is his future.

“That’s all the game of football is about, having fun and making plays and contribute to the team you play for,” he said.