In addition to being one of the most potent weapons in college football, De'Anthony Thomas is one of the best decoys.
Last winter at the Fiesta Bowl the Ducks faced a vaunted defense from #5-ranked Kansas State of the Big 12. The Wildcats were led by a physical middle linebacker, a tackling machine named Arthur Brown, brother of Bryce, 6-0, 235, now with the Baltimore Ravens.
When De'Anthony Thomas wasn't baffling Bill Snyder's squad with blur-fast kick returns or a sudden touchdown with a screen pass, he motioned hard out of the backfield on a dozen plays, forcing Brown to follow him out of the play as Kenjon Barner ran up the middle or the tight end caught a seam route in all that inviting empty space.
Thomas forces defenses to account for him, with or without the ball. He's hungry, eager and ready in his return to the lineup, so he's likely to break a few big plays. It's the plays where he doesn't get the ball where he does hidden damage. He'll influence defenders. They don't want to get beat for a big play, so there's a lot of pointing and gesturing, shading in DAT's direction, wild Duck chases along pathways Marcus Mariota and the offense never really intended to go. He's the ultimate weapon not only in space with the ball in his hands, but roaming free creating frustration and confusion.
Because of this, the soundest, strongest thing the Oregon offense can do Saturday is to return The Black Momba to the multiple "slash" role that saw him score 36 tds in his first two seasons. Move him around. Put him in the slot, running the fly sweep, in motion, as the pitch man in a triple option. Sneak him into the backfield for a couple of quick hits in the middle when speed and tempo catch the Bruins with their heads on a swivel.
Over the past two seasons Oregon has made big gains with a simple wheel route to the tailback along either sideline. With the receivers spread out wide, a linebacker typically has to take that coverage, and they're aren't more than three linebackers in the country who can stay with De'Anthony Thomas or Thomas Tyner. With the threat of the Texas Twosome, Bralon Addison and Josh Huff occupying the safeties, Oregon can get two of the fastest and most dynamic athletes in the game one-on-one for a big play. It's simple to run and deadly effective, stretching the field as far as the lines can be painted.
Similarly, when Thomas runs a drag route across the defensive formation, it draws defenders to him. If they don't close, Marcus Mariota has an easy toss to a an explosive, sure-handed receiver who can inflict big damage with the ball. If they rally to DAT, Addison and Huff are likely to be open somewhere else.
Byron Marshall and Tyner are doing a superb job with the inside running game. Marshall was the quickest, most decisive and elusive he's ever been last Saturday. Maybe it was the pink shoes. The two young guns have established they can handle the heavy lifting on the inside zone read. Both broke big runs against the Cougars. That frees Thomas to be the change of tempo and pace, a multiple threat that keeps the defense thinking. If you take time to think against the Oregon Ducks, the results are usually disastrous.
Look for Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost to unleash the Momba tomorrow in his most effective role: ultimate decoy, ultimate big-play weapon. Every time he lines up in a different place, you'll see the shifting, pointing and scrambling. When that starts to happen, the defense is already beaten. They have to show their intentions. They have to commit to stopping, or trying to stop, the one player on the field who's faster and more elusive than anyone in the game.
DAT is such a threat he can sometimes "block" one to three people merely by sprinting in motion before the snap. Even then, there are times he can beat all three.
In these three videos from Mike Wines of Oregon Duck Soup and Youtube channel madmike1951, note how many differents ways Thomas can be used. In the third video, the highlights from the bowl win over KSU, note the plays where a clear-out from The Momba or Kenjon Barner springs a teammate for a big play.
Fiesta Bowl January 2013:
Amen Dale. I've said before that with the abilities of Marshall and Tyner in the backfield we should now turn Thomas loose all over the field.
Good grief, between Marshall, Tyner and Mariota in the backfield, Thomas all over the place, Mundt and Brown at TE and Huff and Addison downfield, how in the world could anyone ever stop us?
This will be one fun game to watch.
I seem to never tire of watching these three video compilations. I must have watched them 6 maybe 8 times with the same goofy smile on my face. When we are hitting on all cylinders as SD alludes, we are virtually unstoppable.
If Jake is unable to attend the party it will be okay. Nice to have but not essential to our impending huge win. If he needs time to rest up a bit more, great, see you in treesville Jake. Just get healthy.
DAT....(speechless here) just amazing.
I will be the guy wearing the Oregon hat at the game day celebration watching Lee C. put on the Ducks head. Luv that guy cause he luvs our Ducks. Looking to see who the "wishy-washy" talking head is this week.
Go Ducks WTD
These are the kind of problems to have, the Oregon offense running on all eight cylinders. I am guessing the Taser role for DAT and between Byron and TT, always a minimum of two of them in the offense with lots of rotation. With Huff and Bralon mixing it up in the backfield a bit as well, UCLA will have a lot to think about and only about 16 seconds to do that thinking. GO DUCKS!!!
Lets hope Jake Fisher is back in the line up or Allioti has patched that gap. I am sure we all look forward to how the Oregon D looks to stop the pass on Saturday.
@RLWirtz DAT's most effective in that multiple role where they can get him in the open field one-on-one.
@RLWirtz I have a feeling that only Oregon can stop itself. The first team defense has only allowed 107 points in the first 7 games and the offense has produced 2175 passing yards with 2327 rushing yards.
To put that in perspective, Oregon has 1,236 more rushing yards than UCLA and has scored 164 more points. Oregon has (almost) morerushing yards this season than little brother, Wazzu, Cal, and Colorado combined.
In fact, Oregon is within a few yards of doubling the run output of UCLA and Furd combined.
That's kind of amazing. Utah and Furd, the two Alabama-esque offenses, have 2702 rushing yards combined, and their starters have been in the game for almost every quarter of the season. Oregon yanks theirs at the half most of the time, has been playing the last several games with a backup running back and a true freshman sidekick.
What they've done is incredible. What they have yet to do is imposing. When they pull it off, it will have been improbable. The mark they leave will be indelible.
@hoboduck The biggest challenge Oregon faces today is UCLA's big, athletic front seven. But as Z points out above, they've handled every challenge so far.
@SonomaDuck The Bruins haven't given up more than 24 to anyone, so it's a good test of the Oregon offense, see if they can get those weapons working against a stout, athletic group with a big, big defensive line.
@SonomaDuck You just hit on three of the key factors in the game. Having Fisher at full agility would be a huge help, but so far no word has leaked out of the H-D. The Ducks must do a better job defending the horizontal passing game.
@SonomaDuck Maybe even 9 cylinders if we include Lowe: MM, DAT, BM, TT, JH, KL, BA, PB and the Mundtster. UCLA's D has some studs, but they will be thinking too much. Ducks got 89 snaps worth of pass D practice last Saturday. Though Halliday was no threat to run, he sure has a lightning release. Hundley will be hounded behind a hurting and now young OL. I see pressure, sacks, ints, fumbles. The Bruins ranking will drop on Sunday.