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Season in Review: Tavion Thomas

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Despite playing as a backup, Thomas flashed exceptional potential.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • 499 rushing yards
  • 89 carries
  • 6 touchdowns
  • 5.6 yards per carry

Tavion Thomas and fellow freshman running back Charles McClelland were recruited to serve as the backfield tandem of the future for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2018. As we now know, circumstances changed and both players were asked to carry more responsibility than previously anticipated. We already looked at McClelland’s contributions, but now its time to look at what Thomas did in his first year on campus.

The three-star recruit was a top 15 player in the state of Ohio, so just getting him to attend UC was a nice recruiting coup for the Bearcats. But just having potential doesn’t mean all that much once the games start. Luckily, Thomas rewarded UC’s recruiting efforts by quickly illustrating that he can be an effective runner at the collegiate level. After collecting a grand total of one carry in the first two weeks of the season, Thomas was given a chance to let loose against Alabama A&M. He was exceptional in that blowout win, rushing for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries as a stand-in for starter Michael Warren, who was given some rest after the Bearcats built a massive lead early on.

Thomas’ work against Alabama A&M must have given the coaching staff some confidence in his ability to be an effective backup. During the rest of the season, Thomas played much more frequently, ultimately appearing in 10 games, including a start in the regular season finale against East Carolina.

As Warren’s primary backup, he rushed for 499 yards and six touchdowns on 89 carries, which worked out to a healthy 5.6 yards per carry average. He also flashed an ability to be a primary back, amassing 26 carries against East Carolina and totaling at least 10 attempts five times. For a team that was clearly putting a lot of offensive emphasis on the run, having a guy like Thomas who could take pressure off of Warren was critical, especially as the season wore on.

The Best of the Best

Sept. 15 vs. Alabama A&M

During the most productive game of his early career, Thomas led the Bearcats in attempts (18), rushing yards (141) and rushing touchdowns (two). All three of those marks remain his career-highs.

Sept. 29 at UConn

The Huskies had no answer for anything the Bearcats did, and that includes when Thomas ran for 56 yards and a score on 10 carries.

No. 17 at UCF

Even if some of it came when the game was out of reach against backups, Thomas still stepped up to produce 79 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against the Knights.

Nov. 23 vs. East Carolina

In his first career start, Thomas recorded his second game with more than 100 yards while scoring his sixth touchdown of the season.

For Next Year

Thomas built himself a great foundation as a freshman and that will lead to heavy expectations. Living up to them will be the most critical task for him next season. In addition, he could expand his effectiveness and perhaps his playing time by being a more effective receiver out of the backfield. He had just one reception in 2018. If he takes to both of those pursuits like he did to piling up yardage as a freshman, he will continue to be one of the best running backs for UC’s powerful backfield.