Jackets' Thomas shining as receiver in run-based offense

October, 7, 2009
10/07/09
2:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt is a little biased, but he didn’t hesitate for even a millisecond when asked recently if Demaryius Thomas is the best receiver in the ACC.

 
 AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
 Demaryius Thomas leads the ACC with an average of 107.2 receiving yards per game.
“By far,” Nesbitt said.

It’s a glowing endorsement for a team that has only thrown the ball 67 times this whole season, yet Nesbitt’s evaluation of his teammate has merit.

Despite playing in a spread option, run-based offense, Thomas leads the ACC and ranks 15th nationally with 107.2 receiving yards per game. He’s the only receiver in the conference averaging more than 100 yards per game, and he’s making each reception count, with an average of 22.3 yards per catch.

“Knowing that I’m in the triple option, and that I’m considered one of the best receivers, that’s a big thing for me,” he said. “I just try to go out there and do the best I can and try to be one of the best receivers in the ACC. Because it’s the triple option, every time you get a chance to catch the ball, you have to make the most out of it. I try to do that.”

Thomas put in extra time with Nesbitt this summer working on routes, timing and technique, but one of the biggest factors that has helped him this season is his weight loss. Thomas stopped eating sweets, cut out his late-night snacks, and shed 12 pounds, dropping from 244 to 236. He’s stuck with this diet this season, and he’s faster as a result (though he does miss the fried food).

“It feels a lot different,” he said. “I’m not as tired as I used to be. Now I can go make more plays than I did last year.”

Thomas’ speed, along with his height advantage, makes him difficult to defend. At 6-foot-3, Thomas had about three or four inches on the Mississippi State cornerbacks last week, and he pulled down eight receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown. Half of those receptions were for 20 yards or more.

“That makes a big difference once you have a height advantage,” Thomas said. “You get a lot more chances to get jump balls over smaller cornerbacks. The quarterback, he knows what to do once you get in one-on-one coverage with a smaller cornerback, and he can give you a chance to make a play.”

Opposing defenses are wary of Thomas’ ability -- he has 24 of the Jackets’ 35 receptions this season. Against Miami, Thomas had all six of Tech’s receptions for 133 yards. He’s not exactly a secret. Yet the running game requires so much attention it allows for the big-play capability in the passing game. Thomas has had six receptions of 30 yards or more this season.

“He’s a great athlete and he does everything we need out of him,” Nesbitt said. “He blocks real good, and when we need him to run a good route and go get the ball, he’ll go get it for us. Once a team is efficient at throwing the ball, you have to respect that.”

Georgia Tech only throws the ball 13 times per game, but the Jackets enter Saturday’s game against Florida State ranked No. 8 in the country in passing efficiency.

“You’ve got to stay on him tight and don’t go to sleep,” said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. “If you go to sleep, he’s going to score. That’s what they do, they run, run, run, and then when your back starts to get itchy and wants to start coming up, then they’ll pop him with that long one. So you can’t go to sleep on him.”

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