Wildcats recognize Thomas' ability

De'Anthony Thomas is considered to be one of the most explosive players in the country. Read on to see Arizona's thoughts on him, how to stop him, and more.

It is no secret that Oregon's offense is by far its biggest strength and do-it-all athlete De'Anthony Thomas may be the most dangerous offensive weapon the Ducks have.

"I remember when he got out of high school," Rodriguez says of Thomas. "We were trying to recruit him. I had a few conversations with him on the phone. At that time he was one of the most explosive high school players and now he is one of the most explosive college players.

"I mean, there's no one catching him. They'll hand him the ball, they'll throw it to him, and he'll return kicks and punts. He's a nice young man. I had no doubts that he was going to have a successful career. I just wish he wasn't in the Pac-12."

Usually Arizona will have a player emulate the opponent on scout team, but even Rodriguez admitted that the task could be difficult this week.

"We have a couple of fast guys but I don't think we have anybody as fast as him," he said. "It's hard to simulate that. We can simulate their tempo. I'm sure they can probably say the same thing as far as how fast they complete the plays.

"A fast guy like him, a good quarterback as well, they have some really fast guys. I was fortunate enough to coach a fast team that had fast players in that position; you can do some pretty good things offensively."

As of Monday afternoon, Rodriguez had not decided who would play the role of Thomas in practice, but the reality is that it may not matter.

"I don't know who we are going to have in our young freshmen," Rodriguez said. "We have some guys that run pretty good but this guy is not just fast, he's shifty too. He'll make you miss and he runs through arm tackles. With some guys, they may not play fast but when he gets the ball in space, he'll stick his foot around and go right past you.

"When they get going, there's no wasted movement. If you didn't have to play them, it would be a great teaching tool to your guys to say this is how you use your speed when you're returning kicks and running the ball."

There is a realization that there is no one player on Arizona's defense that will be able to stop Thomas, as it has to be a team effort.

"They key, to me, is you have fast guys in the open field so you can get more than one guy to him," Rodriguez said. "The first challenge is trying to catch him. Then, if you can get catch him, can you get him on the ground? So tackling in the open field is going to be a big issue.

"We have to make sure we get guys there. That's a huge thing. They thrive on big plays and always have. They have guys that can take it. Having explosive players brings a lot of benefit. We have some good players, but do we have a lot of explosive guys, I don't know yet."

The defensive players have not watched a ton of tape yet, but they too realize that they will have to play a special game in order to contain Thomas.

"He looks real explosive," Jared Tevis said. "He has a couple of big plays every game, so we just have to contain him and have our defense be disciplined."

While it may be difficult to match his explosiveness, Tevis believes that the defense should be able to adapt to the speed of the offense as a whole.

"We been practicing against a no-huddle throughout camp, and we have a real upbeat offense just like they do," he said. "But there are differences between the offenses, and it will show in the game. But it does prepare us to practice against our offense because it is similar to theirs."

With all the talk about Oregon's offense leading up to Saturday's game, what does Arizona think?

"They are always exciting to watch on TV because of the type of offense they run, but their team can be beat," Jonathan McKnight said. "We just have to play really hard against them."


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