Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota enters the 2013 season with the potential to be a Heisman trophy candidate after a superb season last year in the Pac 12 as a redshirt freshman. While he figures to improve on his numbers of a year ago, he’s not even the biggest Heisman candidate on his own team. That distinction belongs to hybrid running back/wide receiver, De’Anthony Thomas.
There may not be a more electric player in the nation than Thomas who is a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands. Whether it’s on special teams, running out of the backfield or catching passes as a receiver, Thomas is the epitome of a home run hitter.
Not since Reggie Bush was terrorizing defenses en route to his Heisman trophy has there been a player that came close to what Thomas has been doing in Eugene. He has been overshadowed somewhat during his first two seasons with the Ducks because of the presence of LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, but now both are gone and it’s time for Thomas to take center stage.
Last season Thomas rushed for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 45 passes for 445 yards and another five touchdown. For good measure returned one kick and one punt for scores as well. Through his first two seasons he has scored 32 touchdowns and 2,346 yards of offense, but the most impressive stat is his 9.9 yards per touch–he averages a first down every time he touches the ball.
The scary thing is he isn’t even touching the ball all that often because of the presence of James and Barner. When all three were together in 2011, he only touched the ball 101 times, and last year with James in the NFL only saw a slight increase to 137 total touches. To put that in perspective, Barner carried the ball 50 more times last year than Thomas has in his entire career.
Absolutely no reason exists why the ball should not be in Thomas’ hands more than 200 times this season. Give him 165 carries and 60 catches and he’ll put up more than 2,200 total yards from scrimmage if he maintains his average of 9.9 yards per touch.
Bush put up 2,218 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns when he won the Heisman in 2005, and Thomas could eclipse those numbers by a landslide. Just give him the ball and let him run.