In Rutgers' final scrimmage before the Sept. 2 season opener against Norfolk State, an improved offensive showing was buoyed by the running of Thomas.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Thomas began Saturday with the third-team offense, and finished it with the first team. Thomas rushed seven times for 79 yards, including a 34-yard run the first time he touched the ball and a 22-yarder on the second run.
"I like him a lot," Rutgers senior linebacker Antonio Lowery said of Thomas. "He's fast, and then when he got out there with the first team, he is really explosive. That's real nice. I like that. He's fast and quick."
Thomas' two big runs came with the third-team offense, and it wasn't long before he was summoned to the first team.
On his first carry, he went for 17 yards, and followed that with a 4-yarder. He finished the scrimmage with 79 yards on seven carries, and a lot of respect from the Rutgers veterans.
What did right tackle Art Forst see in Thomas?
"Speed," Forst said
Thomas left Union-Endicott (N.Y.) High as its all-time leader in rushing yards (3,308) and points scored (318). He was Scout.com's No. 4 prospect in New York in the 2010 class, and holds the sectional record in the 200 meters (21.5 seconds).
He started his Rutgers career at receiver, but was moved to running back a few days into training camp.
"Honestly, I didn't know him that well in the summer because he was a wide receiver up until recently," Forst said. "Just kind of watching practice, and practice film, he brings a burst. And a lot of fast guys from high school will run sideline to sideline, and he's always pointing his shoulder downhill and will run someone over.
"He's not just a fast guy. He knows how to play the position."
The comparisons between sophomore receiver Mohamed Sanu and freshman receiver Jeremy Deering began shortly after signing day in February, and Lowery called Deering a "baby Sanu" in describing him after the scrimmage.
Deering made several catches in situation drills, and continues to show athleticism. He also has run "Wildcat" packages.
"Deering is a phenomenal athlete, and he's going to be a great football player here," Sanu said. "He just has to keep taking the coaching that coach Fleck is giving him, and coach Schiano, and all those guys are giving him.
"He's a very smart guy. He knows the ins and outs. He's trying to be a student of the game every day."
"We got a lot better from the last scrimmage to this scrimmage," Lowery said. "I think everybody came out with the ready-to-work mentality and to go out and attack it. People noticed this is the last one before it is real, so everyone came out with an attack-it mentality."
What did defense do best?
"Swarm the ball," Lowery said. "We had a few missed tackles, but we swarmed the ball real good, and that's always a plus for us."
There were several reasons for Rutgers increased ability to gain yards and, unlike the first scrimmage, get points outside of red-zone situational parts of the scrimmage.
"We were consistent and we were more patient," Sanu said. "We weren't rushing anything. Pre-snap, post-snap and letting things develop before rushing into it."
Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand had one other reason.
"They came out more physical," he said. "They definitely improved. You could tell me the physicalness."