Finally getting the spotlight directed his way, De'Anthony Thomas is embarking on a monster season that will make him one of Oregon's premier household names.
Receiving more looks after Kenjon Barner's graduation, the junior has quickly proven ready to highlight the nation's most dynamic offense. Thomas needed just 11 carries to generate 124 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon's 59-10 rout over Virginia on Saturday.
That now ups the back's season totals to 252 rushing yards and five scores. He has earned a tidy 8.7 yards per carry for the Ducks, who have ridden a solid 125 total points scored to a 2-0 start.
It's hard to argue with the ESPN College GameDay Twitter feed's assessment of Thomas' brazen quickness:
De'Anthony Thomas is pretty fast --> http://t.co/BKjd1leZ9t— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 7, 2013
Yes, why yes he is.
Oregon is still employing the small speedster sparingly, spreading the ball out between him, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. Marshall led the team with 15 carries on Saturday but finished with 31 yards, nine fewer than Thomas accumulated on his longest touchdown run.
Once the schedule grows tougher, the Ducks should lean heavier on their top talent, giving Thomas more opportunities to dart past defenders. Seriously, did you see how fast he runs?
During his sophomore campaign, an underused Thomas rushed for 701 yards and 11 scores on 92 carries. His 7.6 yards per attempt do seem sluggish compared to his strides to kick off this season, and he often vanished from Chip Kelly's game plan.
In six games, including the Fiesta Bowl, Thomas received five or fewer carries, despite his capitalizing on the rare chances thrown his way. After taking his underclassman bumps, Thomas now deserves to be featured as the top running back.
He is still a work in progress running through the tackles, which has prevented him from truly blossoming as a Heisman-caliber star. At 5'9" and 176 pounds, nobody is expecting him to fill the position of a 30-carry workhorse.
If Oregon can find the sweet spot, affording him 15 to 20 rushing attempts while feeding him the ball through the air in open space, the California product will make his presence felt on a weekly basis.
With Marcus Mariota maturing, the Ducks sport an incredible offense that will carry them into BCS title consideration. They just can't forget Thomas, as guys who can jolt to the end zone in a flash simply don't grow on trees.
De'Anthony Thomas is a star in the making. It's about time the nation becomes privy to his rushing prowess, as few backs can come close to replicating his speed.