Roc solid: Analysts expect Oxford's Thomas to shine at Auburn
by Brandon Miller
bmiller@annistonstar.com
Feb 01, 2014 | 4649 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oxford High's Racean Thomas with his Mr. Football plaque. (Photo by Brandon Miller/The Anniston Star)
Oxford High's Racean Thomas with his Mr. Football plaque. (Photo by Brandon Miller/The Anniston Star)
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There’s no question Oxford tailback Racean "Roc" Thomas dominated as a high school player, and recruiting analysts have little doubt he will shine in college, too.

After rushing for 2,211 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns as an Oxford senior, Thomas is slated to sign with Auburn on National Signing Day, which is Wednesday.

He is a consensus five-star recruit and was the state's Mr. Football winner for 2013. Rivals.com rates him as the No. 2 running back nationally, while Scout has him at No. 3 and 247Sports places him as the fourth best.

His play at the Class 6A level has left Mark Murphy, owner of Scout’s Inside the Auburn Tigers, and Justin Hokanson, managing editor of Rival’s Auburn Sports, confident that Thomas will stand out as early as next fall.

“I think he’s going to play a lot as a freshman. He’s just has that much talent,” Murphy said. “Running back is a position that you can come in and play as a freshman with humility.”

Thomas’ recruitment kicked off during his sophomore campaign. Murphy said co-worker Stephen Atkinson videoed the tailback that season and came back with a report that Thomas was a “high-level recruit.”

“Once we saw the video,” Murphy said, “we said, ‘Yep, there’s no doubt about it.’”

Hokanson said Thomas has become more of a “savvy runner” since his days as an underclassman. And from what Thomas has accomplished, Hokanson added he is a “huge” part of Auburn’s recruiting class, especially with Auburn looking for a replacement for Heisman finalist Tre Mason, who has declared for the NFL draft.

“Obviously, Tre Mason was a junior, but considering the year that he had, they weren’t sure if he was going to go pro early, but Auburn had Tre, a junior college guy and that was about it. ... They obviously wanted some running backs and (Thomas) is arguably the best running back in the country,” Hokanson said. "He’s pretty huge to what they want to do in the future.

"As you’ve seen, Gus Malzahn wants to run the football. So, to keep the best running back in the country, some would say, (Thomas) is a big-priority man.”

What makes Thomas such a good runner? Murphy said Thomas’ vision is his strongest trait, while Hokanson said Thomas’ ability to break tackles is his strongest skill.

“What’s always stood out to me is he hates to be tackled. When you watch his film, getting him down on the first try is almost impossible,” Hokanson said. “He can turn ordinary plays in specular ones.”

Thomas’ style of play has had a number of analysts -- Murphy and Hokanson included -- compare him to former Tigers running back Carnell Williams, who won Mr. Football in 2000. Williams helped Auburn complete a 13-0 season in 2004 and was drafted fifth in the 2005 NFL draft.

“I think (Thomas') size helps, but that specific skillset, I think, compares him to Carnell Williams a lot,” Hokanson said. “He’s similar in size, but he’s so tough and hard to tackle.”

Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.
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