Oregon running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas may be the Heisman contender that all of the preseason magazines are forgetting about. Athlon Sports ranks him on the honorable mention list. Phil Steele lists him as a “possibility”, below a top ten list and another long list of contenders. Lindy’s Sports has Thomas ranked, but he is at No. 7 overall.
How is this possible?
I know Thomas has to share the backfield with running back Kenjon Barner, but come on, this guy is a beast. He ran for 595 yards on 55 catches and seven touchdowns last saeason. He also caught 49 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns.
Think about it this way. Heisman contender LaMichael James took 247 carries last year. James is now a San Francisco 49er. Barner had 152 carries. Quarterback Darron Thomas, who surprisingly left for the NFL, had 56 carries.
The only downside is that new starting quarterback Bryan Bennett ran for 8.7 yards per carry last season during limited action. Bennett likes to run and his quickness means that he will likely be asked to run more than Thomas, who preferred to stay in the pocket as much as possible.
Thomas will receive a ton of carries in the Ducks new look offense. He may not be the main featured running back, but he will be the top playmaker on an offense that figures to put up hundreds of points in 2012.
Of course, I can’t complain too much about where Thomas is being ranked by the preseason magazines. I had the Oregon running back at No. 9 overall, behind five quarterbacks, Montee Ball, Marcus Lattimore, and Sammy Watkins, on my top 55 Heisman candidates list.
It’s hard to bet against a guy that will have the ball in his hands as much as De’Anthony Thomas, especially when he scored 16 touchdowns as a freshman. While guys like Montee Ball and Matt Barkley will be forced to live up to the expectations they created during monster seasons in 2011, Thomas will be quietly judged off of a more relaxed scale. It even helps that Watkins, Clemson’s star wide receiver, produced more national discussion during his freshman season in 2011 than Thomas did.
Although he is not being given the best odds, Thomas could be the best bet for your money as a Heisman contender in 2012.