As if facing undefeated Oregon wasn’t challenging enough, UCLA must worry about an additional threat this Saturday: running back De’Anthony Thomas.
The All-America candidate has missed almost four full games with a sprained ankle, but declared himself ready to play against the Bruins. Thomas averaged 8.0 yards per carry as the Ducks’ lead back. After the emergence of sophomore Byron Marshall (746 yards, nine touchdowns) and freshman Thomas Tyner (360 yards, seven touchdowns), he could move back into a more versatile role.
Through his first two seasons, Thomas moved all over the lineup and rolled out 3,992 all-purpose yards. Comparisons don’t always come easily for such a player, but UCLA linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich gave it a shot.
“He’s got some Devin Hester in him,” said Ulbrich, referring to the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown returns. “He really does. … He plays running back kind of like a returner at times. The beauty of Devin is, he’s very good at setting his blockers up. Keeping things alive.
“The beauty of Devin, like the beauty of No. 6, is the fact that the play is always alive and the blockers know that. When you have belief as a blocker that your guy’s always alive, you block harder, you block longer, you finish.”
Defensive end Cassius Marsh described Thomas’ abilities more succinctly: “He’s blessed.”
— Oregon left tackle Tyler Johnstone said UCLA’s is “the most talented, most athletic defense we’ve faced all year.”
— Former Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla was arrested for cocaine possession last night. Is there any hope left for an NFL career?
— How does Marcus Mariota compare to, say, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion?