De'Anthony Thomas can outrun just about anyone.
But not in the walking boot he's wearing this week.
Oregon's star running back is hobbling around campus during the first week of classes uncertain of exactly when he will be returning to the backfield for the Ducks.
"This is my first injury ever, pretty much," Thomas said after Tuesday's practice. "I just feel like I've got to learn from it."
Thomas has been rehabbing his sprained ankle using an underwater treadmill. Meanwhile, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner are preparing to carry the load on Saturday against Colorado if he can't play.
"He's got a sprain. Those things are always day to day. He's walking around on it a little bit, so we're just hoping that every day it gets a little bit better," Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell said of Thomas' injury. "I think it's his first major injury, he did have a little bit of a knee (injury) once before that kind of hindered him a little bit. But he's been in good spirits."
Oregon leads the nation in rushing, averaging 332.5 yards per game. Thomas has 338 yards (8.0 yards per attempt) and six touchdowns, despite suffering his injury on the opening kickoff against California and sitting out the remainder of the Ducks' 55-16 victory.
If not for the monsoon conditions at Autzen Stadium, Thomas might have been in the end zone at the end of the kickoff instead of limping to the sideline after absorbing a bruising hit.
"That was an easy cut. I've been making those cuts all my life," Thomas said of the move when his ankle was sprained. "And it being wet and stuff like that, just rolled it. Things happen."
Thomas will have a new strategy if the Ducks have to play in the rain again this season.
"Just having a talk with my family members they said, 'When it's raining out there, just run straight,'" Thomas said.
Marshall rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns against Cal. Tyner added 94 yards and a touchdown. The duo combined for four fumbles, but the Golden Bears only recovered one of them.
"I liked everything about (Marshall's) game, except for the fumbles, of course, but that was a lot due to the weather. Byron stepped up and showed that he had the stamina to carry the load like I figured he would have," Campbell said. "We have to learn to deal with the weather and handle the ball in any weather."
Thomas is confident the Ducks will fly home with a victory over CU even if he can't suit up.
"I always tell them no matter where we're at, in practice, in meetings, always just keep pushing," Thomas said of Marshall and Tyner. "I try to lead by example for those guys, but I feel like they have the idea of it now. They've just got to keep fighting, keep pushing."
Looking for a goodattitude at altitude
Mark Helfrich convinced the Ducks that flying across the country and playing in humid conditions would not be a factor for their first road game. Oregon dispatched Virginia 59-10.
Now the first-year head coach has informed his team that the altitude in Boulder (elev. 5,430 feet) won't matter as Oregon prepares for CU.
"Not in the sport of American football," Helfrich said when asked if playing at altitude could be an issue for visiting teams at Folsom Field. "If we were in a bike race or running a marathon, we might have a different issue. It's completely mental."
Helfrich did tell his players that "fast stuff goes faster at altitude; we need to go faster."
Duck fans helping flood victims
A group of Duck fans are making a contribution before the Oregon-Colorado game to help victims of the flood-ravaged Boulder area. They will bring with them 250 backpacks full of school supplies, Nike gear and "Oregon Duck fun items" to assist local students who lost or had to leave behind their necessary school supplies.
Backpacks will be given away Friday at the elementary school in Lyons, Colo., which was devastated by the flooding. The project was organized by the Ducks at the Beach Club, which is an Oregon Booster Association member.
"Kids are always hit hardest by these events, so we focused our efforts on helping kids get back to school with the tools they'd need to be successful there," project organizer Tim Regan said.