Carlton Thomas is one of the most dynamic players on the Georgia Bulldog roster. He’s got speed, elusiveness, and pass-catching ability. His work ethic is ferocious and his desire to make things happen on the field can rival that of any player in Division I football.
So, what’s the problem—right? I mean, add all those attributes to a tailback who is 5’10 and weighs in at 215, and you have a winner. You have a bona fide star in some cases—no question.
Well, Carlton Thomas’ dilemma is that he is 5’7 and 176 pounds. He’s a bit small for a guy who is expected to not only run the ball against 245+ pound linemen who stand in at 6’2 and above, but is also expected to block those same guys on a regular basis—he’s simply not built for that.
However, it’s a waste to keep him sitting on the pine. He’s got talent and the Dawgs didn’t bring him in to watch from the sidelines like a spectator for 4 years. After all, if he had known that was going to happen, he could have chosen to go elsewhere—it’s not like he didn’t have options.
The challenge now, as it has continually been, is finding ways to incorporate him into an offense that isn’t going to change to suit his abilities. He’s plenty useful, even if he’s not playing on every down. Here are just a few ways in which he could light the field up:
This is the obvious one. The talk lately has been about A.J. Green pulling some return duties in 2010, but as David Hale of Bulldogs Blog has so aptly pointed out, that’s a risky proposition considering how thin we already are at the wide receiver spot.
Prince Miller was the guy with this responsibility last season and Bacarri Rambo would be the likely choice to replace him, but, with Rambo focusing more on defense this season, why not give Carlton a shot? He had one opportunity to showcase his stuff last year, and he wasn’t impressive, but you have to wonder if he wouldn’t be more reliable if he knew for certain that the job was his to lose.
In 2009, the Dawgs fielded 23 punts for a total of 255 yards—an average of 19.6 yards per game—and zero touchdowns. Everyone knows how good Thomas can be in space and his field vision is unquestioned. If he were to become the beneficiary of a punt return unit that could set up running lanes for him to blast through, he would be dangerous.
He can get things going in the open field. He may not have the height of a wide receiver, but neither did Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss. It’s about what he can do if he has the space and the time to catch, turn, and run.
Once the season begins, all eyes will be on No. 8. He was the primary target last season and will figure to get the lions share of targets again in 2010. It remains to be seen who will end up being on the other side of the field from him but it is probably safe to assume that Marlon Brown, Tavarres King, or Israel Troupe will get a look at that spot—Orson Charles could also be in the mix.
That said, the third option on certain downs could be a sneaky surprise to those who might not be paying attention. Thomas is sure-handed enough to make the big catch and use his quickness to get down field in a hurry if defenses sleep on him. If the worry is about him losing out on the jump ball, well, lets not forget that he has a 36-inch vertical to go with a pair of great hands.
3rd Down Situations
Screens, pitch-outs, flats, etc., Thomas is capable of filling this role with little trouble. All would grant him the opportunity to work in space, the place he is most apt to excel and make the most impact for the team.
However, he would need to be able to see the holes a lot quicker and not waste too much time dancing around behind the line of scrimmage. If Aaron Murray is the guy who wins the quarterback job, Thomas would most certainly benefit from his presence under center—option plays would add yet another dimension.
The biggest problem with Thomas last season was his pass blocking and pass protection. He will need to become more proficient at doing so if he wants to be placed into these specific types of situations, otherwise, teams will be able to snuff out the play just by virtue of him being on the field—quick, tell me what Logan Gray’s purpose was when he entered the game—it’s the same concept.
One Potential Problem
Can he take the hits? I can specifically recall the Oklahoma State game last season in which Thomas lost the ball after being completely blindsided by a member of the Cowboys’ secondary—it wasn’t a pretty sight.
For all the excitement that Thomas can bring to the fold, it’s yet to be seen if he can maintain his level of play beyond first contact. Despite his shiftiness, he will get hit and he needs to be able to hang on to the ball when he does.
Furthermore, he has to find the holes quicker if he is going to pick up more than a couple yards at a time. Last season saw far too many situations where he was easily corralled after being sniffed out on the play.
For all his hard work and tenacity, he will still face obstacles to being relevant to the Georgia offense. It would be phenomenal to see him realize that potential in 2010 and, if he has anything to do with it, he will.