Jeff Banks: Marcus was the hardest worker we had in the entire program at UTEP. From his work in the weight room to his individual work in practice to the work he did on special teams, he was the hardest worker on the team. Every coach on the staff would agree with that. Both his character and work ethic will make him flourish. He does exactly what the coaches ask for.
SD: What is the best part of his game?
JB: His physical ability in the A and B gaps to run the football in the power and counter schemes. To do this well, a player has to love getting physical and getting his pads low and running down hill, which are all great strengths of his. He loves blocking and his physical ability to pass protect are some of the things he can bring to the pro game.
SD: What is the part of his game that needs improvement?
JB: The biggest part is learning a really, really complex offense. Our system at UTEP is very simple compared to an NFL system. The West Coast offense is very complicated and the schemes and knowledge of that offense are some things he is not used to. Another thing is his open-field speed. He needs to continue to run fast and not get too heavy so he can break bigger runs at top-end speed.
RB Marcus Thomas
JB: There was a play in the Tulane game where Marcus came out of the backfield running a wheel route. He got picked up by a safety as he ran down the sideline. Our quarterback threw him the ball when he was one-on-one with the safety about 30 yards down field and Marcus jumped up acrobatically, grabbed the ball and barely stuck his feet down. It was such a huge play because it was on third down and kept us going on that drive.
SD: Marcus had 16 touchdowns for you guys last season. Why does he have such a knack for getting in the end zone?
JB: He has a talent of running through arm tackles and maneuvering through tight spaces. He flourishes when people are running at him from the outside in. He can overpower them and always end up falling forward. He certainly does have a real knack for the end zone.
SD: Will his upright running style be a problem for him at the pro level?
JB: He is tough…really tough. He missed one game with a broken hand and he wanted to play. Players are bigger and stronger in the pros, but Marcus is going to get bigger and stronger, too. We tried to change his style a bit because that's what coaches do, but you can only change so much. He is tough enough to take the hits and I think people are over reacting a bit saying his style could be a problem.
SD: What changes did Marcus make that allowed him to improve so greatly from his junior to senior season?
JB: The major factor was our offensive line got so much better and had so much more experience. Also, Marcus trimmed down from about 226 pounds to 213 pounds, which was so important because it improved his speed. It allowed him to have about 15 runs of over 20 yards last season. He had more carries and more playing time, but our line and his cutting weight really improved his game.
SD: If you could compare him to a player in the pros right now, who would it be?
JB: I would probably say that he is a lot like a Ryan Grant (Green Bay Packers) or a Fred Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars) type of back. He doesn't have really great speed, but he runs in between the tackles very well and is very physical.
SD: Do you believe he will be a great player with Chargers?
JB: I do think he can make an impact, but I really do think his greatest asset is going to be his longevity. Over time, he will learn the system and become more comfortable with the system. Once he does this, I really think he is going to flourish. He is going to get better with age.