In Rob Moseley's Eugene Register-Guard Oregon Football Blog, he made a great point about a key way the Ducks may miss John Boyett, their 5th year senior safety and the team's leading tackler two of the last three seasons:
I'm interested to see ... if the defense can avoid any more explosion plays. Boyett was the master of playing a deep center field, and keeping the opposition from turning a solid gain into a long, explosive scoring play.
Photo left: Thomas's hands, savvy and phenomenal athletic ability make him a player without normal limits (oregonlive.com photo).
Brian Jackson, Avery Patterson and Eric Dargan are all tremendously talented, and they've had great preparation rotating into the lineup and on special teams. Their coach John Neal is a great developer of defensive backs who succeeded in sending many players to the NFL. They'll do fine in the Oregon secondary. You worry a little about the possibility of an additional injury or two. Moseley pointed out that Dargan is listed as the backup to both Patterson and Jackson. That's a thin depth chart in week 3.
The Ducks have an untapped secret weapon, something that just might be a master stroke both in promotion and strategy.
Their phenomenonally talented TAZR, The Black Momba, De'Anthony Thomas, was originally recruited at USC as a defensive back. In fact, DAT's high school recruiting evaluations projected him as a future NFL cornerback.
In pads and a helmet, I've never seen a faster football player than De'Anthony Thomas. It's not his 40 time or his clocking in the 100 meters. Thomas explodes in cleats. His speed is so sudden and remarkable. He cuts at full speed. His instincts are other-worldly. On his 51-yard touchdown run against Fresno State last weekend, DAT slows down near the goal line to set up his blocker. And then he makes a little move that eludes a defender coming up behind him. He's a ghost, a vampire, a black snake devouring his prey, a little wisp of a lad that can make bigger athletes look utterly silly.
Thomas has the most closing speed of any player on the Ducks roster, and few players in the history of football.
10 to 15 plays a game, in obvious passing situations, Oregon should put him in centerfield. Just let him fly to the ball, use his instincts, and make big plays.
Crucial question of course, could he handle the additional workload, and the added physical exposure of playing defense? Absolutely. Thomas is as tough as they come. He played gunner last year on the punt team.
Last week, back to receive a punt on Fresno's first possession, the kicker faked and took off and rambled down field for a big gain. Someone swooped in and made a crunching hit at the Bulldog sideline.
A couple of big plays on defense, a Pick Six or a key stop, would seal Thomas as Oregon's first Heisman Trophy winner, an award he may win anyway.
And his presence in those key situations, maybe just locking down on one of the fast receivers that give the Ducks so much trouble, could make the difference in a year the conference race seems closer and more perilous than ever.
It could provide a huge spark that would offset the loss of Boyett.
In high school, Thomas was a fierce, physical, two-way player. Used in the right way as a collegian, he could help the Ducks win in a way few athletes in history could. He's wiry and durable, and as gifted as Mel Renfro, Bobby Moore or any player Oregon has ever had.
The video clip below includes some of his defensive highlights at Crenshaw High: