Can Auburn's Roc Thomas be last years Corey Grant?
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn emphasized that in a perfect world two of Auburn’s three freshman would see the field this fall. With the assumption that Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber don’t get hurt, who is better suited for Auburn this season: Roc Thomas or Kamryn Pettway?
Thomas and Pettway couldn’t be any more opposite in terms of their running style. There is a 46-pound difference between the two. The 239-pound, 3-star Pettway is a bulldozer while the 193-pound, 4-star Thomas is a speed demon that likes to hit. Thomas, last year’s Mr. Football in Alabama, was an Under Armour All-American who ran for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns his senior year. Pettway rushed for 1,402 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The indication through two weeks of camp is that Thomas is thriving. When asked about Thomas’ game, wide receiver Tony Stevens said “he has tons of runs. It’s like he sees the hole and hits it fast.” During Tuesday’s scrimmage Thomas turned heads with a 15-yard touchdown run. He is also getting work with the kick return team. Being able to have an impact at running back while also being able to make a contribution on special teams is why Thomas is pulling ahead of Pettway.
“Trying to find information about the new guys, that is the biggest key,” said Malzahn. “We are trying to make decisions….as far as all the new guys is concerned, whether they can help on offense or defense as well as can they help on special teams.”
Because of his explosive speed and number of touches that he could get this season, it is very possible Thomas could have a season much like Corey Grant had last year.
Grant was fourth on the team in rush attempts last season with just 66 behind Tre Mason (317), Nick Marshall (172) and Cameron Artis-Payne (91). Grant wasn’t the workhorse but when he touched the ball he made the most of it, averaging an astonishing 9.8 yards a carry. Grant had three touchdown runs of 40 yards or more and a total of 10 rushing attempts of 12 yards or more.
- Washington State: 75-yard touchdown run, 148 total rush yards
- Arkansas State: 17-yard touchdown run, 40 total rush yards
- Mississippi State: 12-yard run, 44 total rush yards
- Western Carolina: 51-yard touchdown run, 83 total rush yards
- Texas A&M: 32-yard run, 45 total rush yards
- Florida Atlantic: 43-yard touchdown run, 75 total rush yards
- Tennessee: 20-yard run, 48 total rush yards
- Georgia: 21-yard touchdown run, 53 total rush yards
- Alabama: 16-yard run, 28 total rush yards
- Missouri: 43-yard run, 65 total rush yards
It is expected that Artis-Payne and Grant will be ahead of Thomas in terms of carries and with Nick Marshall keeping the ball while executing the zone read, the freshman will be fourth on the team. Because of Thomas’ blinding speed, Auburn could see big gains as well as touchdown runs when he does touch the ball. Thomas gives Auburn’s offense an ability to change things up with different personnel while doing things the way Auburn wants to – fast.
In that there isn’t any existing video of Thomas’ touchdown run in the Auburn scrimmage, here is a highlight package of some of his notable high school runs.