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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Oregon's Thomas stays busy

  • Circled on De'Anthony Thomas' calendar is Jan. 3, the day of the Fiesta Bowl, as well as another game nine days later.
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  • Circled on De'Anthony Thomas' calendar is Jan. 3, the day of the Fiesta Bowl, as well as another game nine days later.
    That's when the YMCA basketball team Thomas has signed on to help coach plays its first game.
    "Now that the season's about to be over, I'm looking for opportunities to help out in the community," Thomas said Monday, after Oregon wrapped up a second set of four postseason practices. "Just giving back to the kids."
    Thomas' first order of business is of course helping the Ducks beat Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. He announced his presence to the college football world the last time he appeared in a BCS game, with touchdown runs of 91 and 64 yards against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in January.
    Might more of the same be in store this time around?
    "My mindset right now is, I've just got to have a big game and be there for my team," Thomas said.
    He was that this regular season, though the statistics don't necessarily illustrate it well. Thomas ran 90 times for 720 yards and 11 touchdowns, his rushing total third on the team behind Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota, but his average of 7.6 yards per carry a team best.
    As a receiver, Thomas leads UO for the second consecutive year, with 385 yards, on 41 receptions with four touchdowns. He was also a primary returner of kickoffs and punts, though not so prolific that his preseason Heisman Trophy buzz kept up throughout the fall.
    But Thomas consistently attracted attention from defenses, which contributed to long runs by Barner and Mariota, and openings for Josh Huff as a receiver. He was of immense value to the Ducks, even if just as a decoy.
    "It wasn't frustrating," said Thomas, who's coming off his best game of the season in the Civil War. "It just gave opportunities for other players on this team to make plays."
    After the Fiesta Bowl, Thomas will again be focused on opportunities for others, not content to just sit still and focus solely on schoolwork. On the football field he returns kicks and receives passes and takes handoffs — awareness as a blocker perhaps a skill that could use some work — so why not add basketball coaching to his schedule?
    Thomas said he got the idea from former UO defensive end Terrell Turner, who also served as a youth coach in Eugene. Thomas has connected with a local coach, and will begin attending practices and games in January.
    "Just be there to motivate kids to work harder, stuff like that," Thomas said.
    He's taken a similar message into recent visits to local schools.
    "Me coming from Los Angeles, the situations I had to overcome to come to a university like this, basically the message is, never let anyone say you can't do anything," Thomas said. "Just go in there and give it your all."
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    THE DUCKS WILL took a day off from practice before resuming workouts Wednesday with a more focused attention on the Fiesta Bowl game plan.
    "We did some game-planning, but we do mostly a lot of stuff against each other," UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "When we come back Wednesday ... that's kind of when we'll gear it up a lot more."
    Aliotti acknowledged the extended break between the Civil War and the Fiesta Bowl, and said coaches are cognizant of not installing too much of the game plan too early, so that it becomes monotonous to review over the course of the month.
    "Our kids have worked very hard," UO coach Chip Kelly said. "They've got a real good understanding of what we're doing. We've got a portion of our game plan in. The attitude and effort we've gotten from them has been fantastic every day we've been out here so far."
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    AMONG THE PERKS of playing in bowl games are up to $550 in gifts that bowls can lavish upon participating players, which the Ducks received from the Fiesta Bowl on Sunday.
    The SportsBusiness Journal reported that Fiesta Bowl participants receive a Kenneth Cole watch, a cap, an Ogio Convoy backpack and a trip through a "gift suite" to select other items. The "gift suite" was set up in a lounge area of the Casanova Center on Sunday, with players selecting items that bring their total package up to that $550 limit.
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