Top 5 for No. 6
At just 5’9″, 173 pounds, De’Anthony Thomas might be the fastest, most exciting player in the NCAA. His foot speed is blinding, his cuts are lightning quick and he has the ability to play multiple positions on any given Saturday.
Above all else, his knowledge of the field is what has propelled him to success, and he’s given fans in Eugene plenty to remember through two full season.
Although Thomas has been a superstar since his arrival, he’s been more of a sixth man than a consistent starter. As a freshman, he played behind both LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, but that’ didn’t stop him from ranking seventh in the nation in all-purpose yards.
In his sophomore season, Thomas still played backup to Barner, but once again, nothing would get in his way. His name was thrown about all over the media when it came to national awards, and he’s set himself up for a Heisman campaign in 2013.
Through just two years, Thomas has provided Oregon fans with entertainment at every turn. What comes next has yet to be determined, but the past two years have been highlight-worthy, to say the least.
5. Thomas Spurns USC
As good as it feels when the Ducks gain a recruit, it’s that much sweeter when they steal one from the USC Trojans.
Thomas was initially committed to Lane Kiffin and the USC program before changing his mind. Oregon convinced the tailback to take a last-minute visit to Eugene before National Signing Day, and the rest has been well-documented.
If it hadn’t been for the last-ditch effort on the part of Oregon, the Ducks might not be where they are today. Even worse, USC might still be a powerhouse program.
Thomas was an L.A. kid in the Trojans’ backyard, but the Ducks snuck in, and Thomas has become a Heisman candidate as a result.
4. Thomas Confuses WSU Defender
If there were ever one play that epitomized just how skilled The Black Mamba is, this might be it.
In 2011, the Ducks hosted the Washington State Cougars and took them down 43-28. The score was impressive, but the moves that Thomas displayed in the third quarter are what deserve true praise.
On a simple screen pass, the tailback caught the ball as he exited the backfield. He turned north, broke a tackle and used a series of cuts to leave the solo defender in utter confusion.
3. Kickoff Return vs. USC
Remember how Thomas was once committed to the USC program? In November 2011, he showed the Trojans exactly what they were missing out on.
As one of the most dynamic players on the field, Thomas showed that he can be counted upon in the kick-return game to make plays. His speed and deception was what got him to midfield, but it was his willingness to slow down and survey the defense that allowed him to make the right cuts.
Thomas took the ball all the way to the endzone, and he sparked what was nearly a miracle comeback at Autzen Stadium.
2. 2012 Rose Bowl – Two Caries, Two TDs, 155 Yards
Two carries, two touchdowns and 155 yards. That’s the stat line Thomas was able to produce as a running back in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Thomas has become known for his big-play ability. His touch-to-touchdown ratio was as impressive as anybody’s to start 2012, which was a topic of discussion every time he played on ESPN.
The Rose Bowl was the perfect example of this, as the Wisconsin Badgers literally had no answer for him out of the backfield.
1. 2013 Fiesta Bowl – Opening Kick Return
Everybody knew that the Ducks would need to get off to a hot start at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. Oregon was the favorite, but the Kansas State Wildcats had the offensive prowess to take advantage of any early struggles.
Needless to say, the team got off to a great start, compliments of Thomas.
The multi-talented speedster took the ball to the house on the opening kickoff. Within 10 seconds, the Ducks had opened up a 6-0 lead, and a quick two-point conversion would officially introduce K-State to what Oregon was capable of.
The faces of the fans said it all for both sides, and the play became the catalyst for an incredible offensive showing.