Explosiveness helps win Heisman Trophies in today's college football world, and it doesn't get much better than the Oregon Ducks' De'Anthony Thomas. A threat to score any time the football is in his hands, Thomas is a true Heisman candidate entering the 2013 college football season.
This is somebody who has 18 rushing touchdowns, more than 1,000 receiving yards and has made numerous special teams plays in his first two seasons on campus. Now it's time for him to take that next step and bring home some individual hardware.
With a new head coach and an offense that may look a little different, coming up with exactly the formula for how Thomas can win this year's Heisman may be a little tricky. But the truth is that with a player this gifted, it shouldn't take much to put him in position to succeed.
Here is the simple formula for how Thomas can become the latest Heisman Trophy winner.
More Touches, Please
Kenjon Barner is no longer on the roster, which means that Thomas should end up having a heavier workload this season. Some would say he isn't big enough to be the type of back that carries the football 150 times or more, but this is somebody who can handle his own. Not only have we seen him break tackles throughout his career, half the time he isn't even touched when he gets the ball in his hands.
In other words, Thomas is so fast that it doesn't truly matter how many times he touches the ball. He's too quick and agile for a defender to even put a good hit on. If Thomas wants to win the Heisman, he will need more than the 92 carries he received last season.
It doesn't matter what type of play design you want to come up with, just give the kid the ball. Trust me, he will make things work once the pigskin is in his belly.
Just check out this outside zone-read against Arkansas State. Thomas is going to receive the football and begin running towards the right side of the field where the blocks are being set up. The problem is that there was a cornerback blitz on the play and a bunch of congestion, which really looked like bad news for the Oregon offense.
Thomas isn't your ordinary running back. He immediately sees the running lanes clogged up and begins to take his business to the left side of the field where there is this huge opening. This then allows him to put his skills to use and make defenders miss in the open field.
If there is anything we should have learned from watching Thomas over the years, you can't tackle him in space. He does a wonderful job of weaving in and out of traffic, displaying an excellent vision of the field and then simply blowing by the defenders who look like they are standing still. This particular play results in a 33-yard touchdown.
Another play wasn't as flashy, but showed just how explosive Thomas is and how he can make something out of nothing. Thomas receives the ball to run to the left side, but the left tackle doesn't do a terrific job of blocking his man, allowing him to get his hands on the running back.
Thomas ends up somehow making the defender miss by running towards the outside. He then sidesteps another defender and then outruns three Arizona players to pick up a crucial first down on 3rd-and-7.
This is just another example of the athletic ability Thomas possess and how he can make something out of nothing. It isn't really the play design that is going to help him win the Heisman Trophy; it has much more to do with the amount of times you give him the football. This is somebody who averaged more than seven yards a carry rushing and nearly 10 yards receiving. A total of 92 rushing attempts simply aren’t enough.
Give Thomas the football more often and he will get the job done. He has already shown that for the last two seasons.
Let Him Shine Defensively
Thomas is easily the most explosive player in the country and is the primary weapon on this Oregon offense. But unless he is going to have a Johnny Manziel-type season number wise, it is going to be tough for him to compete with the other top candidates for the award.
This is why he should convince the coaching staff to let him play a little bit on defense. Charles Woodson ended up winning the Heisman back in 1997 because he made plays on both sides of the ball, and it would certainly benefit Thomas if he was to do the same.
Thomas spent time playing the defensive side of the ball in high school and was recruited by some schools to play cornerback and safety. With his ball skills and break-neck speed, he could become a difference-maker in certain packages for the Ducks.
Here, Thomas can be seen coming off the edge on an all-out blitz. He creeps up to the line right before the ball is snapped and due to his speed, he has little trouble turning the corner untouched to make the play in the backfield.
He ends up getting there almost the same time the running back received the ball, resulting in a tackle for loss. Now that Thomas is no longer barely 150 pounds and has bulked up a bit, a play like this now at the collegiate level could have resulted in a fumble and a momentum-changing play for the Ducks defense.
Oregon is an aggressive defense that switches looks under defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Sometimes you’ll see a traditional 3-4 look, sometimes they'll switch to a 4-4-2 and then there is the nickel package in a 3-3-5. It wouldn't take much to throw Thomas on the field in certain situations and allow him the opportunity to get after the quarterback or come away with an interception.
Thomas is the ultimate playmaker, and his skill set shows that he would have no problem at all doing what he does on offense, defensively. I'm not asking him to switch to defense full-time, just come in during certain situations and get after it. This would not only catch the opposing offense off guard and make the Ducks defense that much scarier, it would increase the Black Mamba's chances of winning the Heisman.