Stats & Info: De'Anthony Thomas

Dual-threat Mariota keys Oregon offense

June, 28, 2013
Jesse Beals/Icon SMIMarcus Mariota was the Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year in 2012.
The 2013 college football season has the potential to be one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Today we will look at Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

A look back at 2012
A year ago, Mariota was battling Bryan Bennett for the starting quarterback nod. He finished the year as the Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year, breaking conference freshmen records for completion percentage and touchdown passes along the way.

What separated Mariota from his peers was his ability to use his feet and his decision making. Mariota joined Heisman winner Johnny Manziel as the only two players in FBS last year to average seven yards per rush and seven yards per pass attempt (min. 200 attempts).

This fall ESPN will unveil Total QBR for college, including past season results back to 2004. In that time frame, Mariota’s 2012 opponent-adjusted Total QBR was the highest single-season Total QBR by an Oregon quarterback.

As a result, Oregon's 2012 offense contributed more points to its winning margin (opponent adjusted offensive EPA) than any other Oregon offense during that time.

One of Mariota's toughest opponents last year was his own coach, Chip Kelly, and his reluctance to play him in the second half of games. Only 10 of Mariota's 38 total touchdowns came after halftime. His 16 first-quarter touchdowns were tied with Utah State's Chuckie Keeton for most in FBS last season.

What’s Ahead for 2013?
2013 brings a few changes for the Oregon football program. Kelly, the mastermind behind four straight BCS bowl appearances is gone. Also gone is fifth-year senior Kenjon Barner and his 2,000 yards of offense.

But Mariota's favorite target from a year ago returns in De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas will likely play a bigger role for the Ducks this year, and get more than the 10.5 touches a game he saw last year.

When targeting the speedy Thomas in 2012, Mariota was 45 for 55, his highest completion percentage among all of his receivers who caught at least 10 passes. The 55 passes averaged fewer than 5 yards of actual air distance, and 20 were thrown behind the line of scrimmage. Look for Thomas to get more of these short targets next season as he has averaged more than eight yards after the catch per reception in his career.

Barner's departure will hurt Mariota if Oregon cannot replicate the run threat he brought to Oregon’s offense. Mariota threw 25 of his 32 touchdown passes after a run fake, including nine touchdowns in his last four games. His 25 such touchdowns were the most among all BCS-AQ quarterbacks.

But don’t expect offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Mark Helfrich to abandon the running game either. Over the last two seasons, Oregon has had five players rush for more than 700 yards in a season (most in FBS), including Mariota last year.

Retooled Ducks still have big-play potential

August, 22, 2012

Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesDe’Anthony Thomas will try to help fill the void left by LaMichael James in the Oregon backfield.
Oregon is seeking to become the first team since the 1966-69 USC Trojans to win the Pac-12 football title outright in four consecutive seasons.

LaMichael James
But they’ll have to do it without LaMichael James.

In Chip Kelly’s three seasons as Oregon’s head coach, he’s done nothing but win three Pac-12 titles. In those three seasons, he has had dynamic playmakers that excelled in his spread option system.

Those playmakers have had a knack for breaking long runs, rushing for 20 or more yards once every 15.9 attempts, best in the nation among FBS teams with at least 10 games against AP Top 25 opponents since the start of 2009.

In the last two seasons, the Ducks’ high-octane offense ranked first in both touchdown drives of three plays or fewer (39) and touchdown drives in less than two minutes (90).

The main catalyst for Oregon’s offense has been James, the Pac-12’s second all-time leading rusher with 5,082 rushing yards in his three seasons. He has 34 rushes of at least 30 yards since the start of 2009, ranking first in FBS during that span.

For any program, it would be nearly impossible to replace a playmaker like James. However, the Ducks have two capable backs to effectively replace James’ production in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas.

James, Barner and Thomas all ranked in the top four of the Pac-12 in yards per rush last season (minimum 50 rushes). As a team, the Ducks had the highest yards per rush average in FBS (6.7 yards per rush).

Oregon was even more successful running the ball on first downs last year. James led the way with 122 carries for 968 yards (7.9 yards per rush). It wasn’t all James however, as Barner and Thomas combined for 94 carries for 702 yards (7.5 yards per rush).

When James dislocated his elbow last year, Oregon did not lose a step. In the two games without him, Barner and Thomas carried the ball 49 times for 352 yards (7.2 yards per rush).

The speed of Oregon’s rushing attack has been illustrated by its success rushing outside of the tackles. Last season, James averaged 9.5 yards per rush outside the tackles while the two returnees went for 8.7 yards per rush.

Barner and Thomas’ versatility allowed them to line up at different positions and contribute in the passing game, combining for 63 receptions for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns. James had 17 receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown last season.

James thrived under Kelly’s system. However, statistics show Barner and Thomas can continue the recent trend of a potent Ducks rushing attack.

Offenses on display in Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2012

AP Photo
Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Oregon's LaMichael James lead two high-powered offenses into Monday's Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.
There are only three FBS teams that have a quarterback ranked in the top 15 of passing efficiency and a running back ranked in the top 15 of rushing yards per game. Two are in the Rose Bowl-- the Oregon Ducks and Wisconsin Badgers on ESPN at 5 PM Monday (the other is Baylor).

Although both offenses are high scoring and balanced, they employ drastically different styles of play highlighted by speed, power and efficiency.

Oregon Offense
Oregon spreads the field and beats opponents with speed and big plays. The Ducks average just over two minutes per touchdown drive and over the past two seasons have scored 86 touchdowns on drives of less than two minutes, most in FBS.

The Ducks average 296 rushing yards per game, but it is their ability to break long rushes that makes them so dangerous.

Entering the bowl season, Oregon led the country with 20 rushes of 30-or-more yards and is a perfect 20-0 over the past two seasons when breaking at least one run of 30-plus yards.

LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing yards per game, but Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have also been reliable ground options for Oregon. The trio of running backs has combined for 2,995 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns. They are most effective rushing outside the tackles, where the trio averages 9 yards per rush.

Quarterback Darron Thomas adds another element to Oregon’s explosive attack. He has excelled throwing downfield this season, completing about 50 percent of his passes thrown 15-or-more yards in the air, with 12 of those passes going for touchdowns. Wisconsin has allowed only 24 completions of at least 20 yards this season (tied for fourth in FBS), but two of those completions were last-second passes that ruined the Badgers’ national title hopes.

Wisconsin Offense
Montee Ball enters the Rose Bowl as FBS’s top individual scorer with 38 total touchdowns this season. He has accounted for at least two touchdowns in every game and is one touchdown shy of tying Barry Sanders’ record for touchdowns in a season.

He'll be a key to Wisconsin’s offense, which mixes speed and power behind a bruising offensive line. The Badgers move the ball down the field at a slower pace than Oregon, averaging 2:53 per touchdown drive, but find the end zone at a similar rate to the Ducks.

The Badgers have one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation in Russell Wilson, who has thrown a touchdown in an NCAA-record 37 straight games. Wilson and Baylor's Robert Griffin III are both on pace to break the single-season passing efficiency record held by Hawaii's Colt Brennan.

Wilson has been effective with both his arm and his legs. He keeps plays alive for the Badgers, averaging 9.5 yards per scramble. Like Thomas, Wilson is completing close to 50 percent of his passes 15 or more yards downfield.

Wilson is a huge factor in Wisconsin’s success, but the heart of Wisconsin’s offense lies in its run game. Look for Wisconsin’s offense to make use of two tight-end formations to get Ball in the end zone. All 32 of his rushing touchdowns came in multiple tight-end sets.

Stats of the Game
In 2009 and 2010, Oregon has averaged 143 fewer rushing yards, 127 fewer total yards and 26 fewer points in their bowl games than their regular-season games.

The Big Ten is 1-7 in its last eight Rose Bowl games with it only win coming when Ohio State beat Oregon two years ago.