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Sunday, September 5, 2010
DeAnthony Thomas makes presence felt

By Jamie Newberg
ESPN Recruiting

SUWANEE, Ga. -- Much of the buzz before Friday's game between Crenshaw (Los Angeles, Calif.) and North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.) had to do with Crenshaw's four-star athlete DeAnthony Thomas.

Thomas, a USC commit, didn't disappoint.

Although his appearance was brief -- he missed much of the second half with an injury -- his presence was immense. In the opening minutes of the game, Thomas took a pitch and started to scamper wide right, only to spin the opposite way, a la Marcus Allen from Super Bowl XVIII, then absolutely explode down the left sidelines for a 60-yard score.

Fans on the sideline couldn't believe what they just saw. But it wasn't just the fans who were picking their jaws up off the ground. Even North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire was impressed.

"He's all that and a bag of chips," Sphire said. "He's fast, fast, fast and plays so hard. But to be honest, that's not surprising. In watching tape on them you can tell he plays with so much pride. That team over there plays with so much pride."

On that one play, Thomas showed everyone why he is one of the nation's top recruits. He's 5-foot-9, 160 pounds and has legitimate 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. He has cat-like quickness, super balance, extraordinary vision and wonderful anticipation. He plays running back, receiver and safety for Crenshaw, but will likely be a cornerback for the Trojans.

"I just have the mentality that I have to just step up for my team and make plays," Thomas said. "That's especially true this season with the young guys we have. The seniors have to step up. It's time to be a leader."

He certainly stepped up early in the 17-12 loss to North Gwinnett. Thomas made several dazzling runs and also made a leaping grab and scampered down the sideline for a touchdown. In the opening minutes, he accounted for two touchdowns and all of Crenshaw's 12 points. The Cougars wouldn't score again. Thomas was sparingly used in the second quarter and then had to leave the game in the third after severely cramping. The cramping started in his calves, then worked its way up eventually to his abdomen. He left the field, received two IVs and was told he would have to sit out the rest of the game.

In all, he finished with 137 total yards and two TDs.

"I knew playing in Atlanta that there would be a lot of humidity," Thomas said. "I tried to prepare and drink a lot of water and Gatorade every day. I started on Monday. But look what happens. Now I can't wait to get back to Cali and practice hard and have a great season."

Still, late in the fourth quarter with his team down 17-12 and needing a big fourth-down stop, Thomas snuck back in the game hoping to make one big play to give his team a chance to win. A Crenshaw penalty, though, gave North Gwinnett a first down and his coaches a chance to get him off the field.

"I tried, man. I tried to sneak in there and help my team make a play," Thomas said. "Then they took me right out. I just wanted to make something happen. I wanted to win."

Despite his decision to play for Lane Kiffin and the Trojans, Thomas plans to visit some schools between now and national signing day.

"I'm trying to plan visits," Thomas said. "I know I will visit Washington for sure and I know I want to set up some to Michigan. I am not sure on some of the other schools right now."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.