Oregon football picked up right where it left off last year, with a 66-3 thrashing of FCS opponent, Nicholls State. The Ducks overwhelmed the Colonels with pure speed on offense, as Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall each eclipsed the 100-yard mark rushing the ball.
De’Anthony Thomas, the lone back with double-digit carries, set a new career high with 18 on Saturday, as he lined up at running back in three straight series during the first quarter. With the clock striking zero on Saturday, Helfrich had established Thomas as the featured back of the Ducks’ explosive offense. Unlike last year when Kenjon Barner commanded the bulk of the carries, Thomas made it clear that he is the number one back on the Ducks’ depth chart.
With a 5’9”, 169-pound frame, De’Anthony Thomas is not your prototypical featured running back who can pound the ball week in and week out. In that role this season, durability will always be a question mark for De’Anthony. His body type projects him more towards a change-of-pace or multi-purpose back. Despite these criticisms, Thomas looked more than comfortable on Saturday, shredding the Nicholls defense for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Granted, it was against a lower-level FCS opponent.
The next two weeks, first at Virginia and then back home against Tennessee, will be a true test for De’Anthony. This two game stretch will allow the coaching staff to assess his full-time role. If he struggles and gets beat up by faster ACC and SEC defenses, Helfrich could be forced to use the 38-pounds-heavier Byron Marshall, or resort to more throwing from Mariota. As of now however, Thomas and the Ducks look poised for a record setting year on the ground.