Duplicating De'Anthony easier said than done

Running back De'Anthony Thomas has lived up to five-star status in his first year at Oregon.

LOS ANGELES – When it came time for Wisconsin to choose someone to imitate Oregon's sensational do-it-all freshman De'Anthony Thomas for its scout team, wide receiver Kenzel Doe was an obvious choice.

"I already have his number," said Doe, who like Thomas wears No. 6.

But even running a 4.4 40-yard dash, Doe quickly found out that simulating Thomas is not the same thing as replicating him.

"It's amazing how explosive he is," Doe said. "Just watching film on him, it's like when he gets the ball and breaks away, you're not going to catch him.

"You can't get exact the way he runs or moves, but I try my best to do as much as I can."

It's not Doe's fault. There might not be another player in college football like Thomas. His game-breaking ability is remarkable, scoring 16 touchdowns that have covered an average of 32.6 yards per play.

"He is a special, special talent," Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said.

Teammates knew immediately that he was capable of greatness.

"This summer, we were doing 7-on-7 and the way he would come out of his breaks or go past one of our defenders, I knew right then we had something special," wide receiver Josh Huff said.

Listed, perhaps generously, at 5-foot-9 and 173 pounds, Thomas has proven to be the perfect complimentary piece in the Oregon spread offense. He is used as a running back and wide receiver, on reverses and returns, averaging about 10 touches a game.

The standout from Los Angeles Crenshaw is the only one in the nation with more than 400 yards rushing, receiving and on kick returns this season.

"He's kind of their slash man, does everything," Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor said. "You've just got to be aware where he lines up."

Thomas has made his biggest impact in the passing game, as Oregon had to replace its top two receivers from a year ago in Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis. Thomas leads the team with 42 catches for 571 yards and nine touchdowns.

"He's a guy that wants to be under the radar and just work hard," quarterback Darron Thomas said.

Even surrounded by the media, Thomas showed that maturity, speaking deliberately and being quick to downplay his own achievements and praise his teammates.

Asked about the intense spotlight that came with being a five-star recruit, Thomas said, "I just tried to stay focused and be a leader for this team."

"He's only going to get better and stronger and faster," running back LaMichael James said. "He's probably going to be one of the best players ever to come to Oregon."

For his part, Doe believes he has done a good job preparing the Wisconsin defense for Thomas' versatility.

"The coaches, (safety) Aaron Henry, (cornerback) Antonio (Fenelus), they have been telling me ‘Good look, Kenzel. We need it to be like the game,'" Doe said. "I go 100 percent and act like I'm in the game."

He has also picked up a few ideas watching how Oregon uses Thomas.

"I haven't said anything (to the coaches yet)," said Doe, "Maybe we can do something similar."


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