Oregon Football: De'Anthony Thomas's 5 Favorite Plays
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There isn't a whole lot De'Anthony Thomas can do for the Oregon Ducks that he hasn't already done since arriving on campus in the summer of 2011.
He's returned kicks, taken screens to the house, turned short handoffs into 30-yard gains and made the highlight reel over and over again for incredible plays that he seems to complete with ease.
An unselfish player to the core, Thomas stepped on to the football field with one main goal, that is, to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
But for an athlete as explosive as DAT, naturally, there are a few plays that stand out in the playbook. Those would be the same plays you might find circled several times in opposing defensive coordinators' pregame notes.
In looking at the Black Mamba's favorite plays, I considered not only plays that have been successful but some that have yet to be run as well.
Thomas' versatility allows him to play pretty much anywhere on the field.
But here are his top five favorite plays, which you can see nearly every Saturday next fall.
Outside Zone Read
De'Anthony Thomas Rushes for a TD against Arkansas State
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The stage was set on the first football Saturday last fall for the Oregon Ducks to come out and showcase their high-flying offense, led by DAT, on national television.
And they did just that, jumping out to an early 50-3 lead.
While De'Anthony Thomas may have caught two touchdowns, it was his rushing one that really displayed his incredible quickness and agility.
The outside zone read, where the running back lines up next to the quarterback, is designed for the running back to get to the outside should the quarterback decide to hand off the ball.
On this particular play, Thomas took the ball and dashed outside before quickly finding himself up against an incoming defender. Instead of utilizing his speed to beat him to the corner, Thomas took one cut up field and then jumped back outside before finally spinning his way past a final defender and into the endzone.
The play works because it gives Thomas so many options, and whether it's his speed or his uniquely fast cutting ability, he is liable to break at least a few of these into the open field each game.
With the running back situation looking fairly thin, watch for the Black Mamba to continue to showcase his skills on the outside zone read.
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Of the many physical attributes De'Anthony Thomas brings to the game of football, you'd have to say speed is the one that truly sets him apart.
So why wouldn't he love a play that relies solely on his ability to outrun defenders?
The "go" route usually involves a receiver running in a straight line down the field as fast as he can in an attempt to get behind the defense. It's then the quarterback's job to throw it over the defense to the streaking receiver.
I'm aware that this isn't a staple of Oregon's playbook and likely never will be. It relies on precise timing and deadly accuracy from the quarterback. But the Ducks did try this at the end of the first half a couple times, and Thomas nearly came up with some amazing grabs.
Thomas is great as a receiver and appears to enjoy any time he gets a chance to blow by a defensive back, whether it's down field or over the middle.
But as Marcus Mariota continue to develop, look for De'Anthony to run the "go" route at least a couple times a game. And if defenses aren't careful, they'll be watching him dance into the end zone.
Screen of Any Kind
De'Anthony Thomas holds on tight in the Fiesta Bowl
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When De'Anthony Thomas first showed up to practice in 2011, Chip Kelly's first thought must have been, "we have to get this kid the ball. In space. Over and over again."
And nearly two years later we've learned that yes, De'Anthony Thomas is at his best when he's in the open field with a chance to juke defenders.
Thus, the screen play has to be near the top of the Black Mamba's favorite plays.
Whether he's starting from the running back position in a traditional screen pass or starting from the outside and cutting in via the jab (or bubble) screen, Thomas gets the ball, with blockers ahead and speed to burn.
This is also known as a recipe for disaster among defensive coordinators.
DAT has proven to nearly everybody that he can handle 15 carries a game in between the tackles. But he's destroyed opponents through the air during his entire two-year career, and the screen pass has been one of his biggest weapons.
If Thomas gets his wish, he'll be seeing a lot more screen passes come fall.
De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff celebrate a score against USC
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The fly sweep is another play that Oregon doesn't run very often, but that doesn't mean De'Anthony Thomas doesn't get a big smile every time it's called for him.
The play first became big in the state of Oregon when James Rodgers and the Oregon State Beavers ran it to perfection time and time again throughout the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
But the play certainly existed before then and still does today. It typically involves the wide receiver running toward the line of scrimmage at full speed. The ball is snapped just before he reaches the quarterback, and the ball is then handed off to the receiver who is in top gear before most of the defense has even begun to move.
This is where we fall back once more on the tools DAT has—his speed, quickness and ability to cut up field in a heartbeat.
It's almost unfair to give the ball to a full throttle Black Mamba before the linebackers are even aware of what's happening, but it's what makes this play so dangerous for the Ducks' offense. Then of course there's the option for the ball to be snapped before De'Anthony reaches the line, and instead of him grabbing the ball, he'll dart upfield and get open as a receiver.
There are so many ways the fly sweep can hurt a defense, and with De'Anthony Thomas in the mix, the play truly reaches its full potential.
The Kick Return
De'Anthony Thomas returns the opening kickoff in the Fiesta Bowl
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Yeah, I took the easy way out on this list one. But kick return, punt return, it doesn't matter to De'Anthony Thomas as long as it gives him a chance to jump-start his team.
The kick return that sparked Oregon's comeback against USC in 2011 is a great example, but the Ducks lost that game, so I submit that his touchdown to open the Fiesta Bowl is an even better one!
The kick return may not be a "play" in the traditional sense that a screen pass or a zone read might be because the kick return happens every game and isn't called from the sidelines.
Naturally, it has to be one of DAT's favorites because he knows that no matter what else happens in the game, he'll get his chance to return one to the house. Remember his punt return against Colorado?
Very few players could have made that play, and it shows why the kick return has to be De'Anthony Thomas' favorite play of them all.