As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.
“At 5’11 and 200 pounds, Thomas runs with good power. It’s his agility, quickness and top-end speed which make him such a dangerous weapon, though, because he is slippery between the tackles and a nightmare to tackle in space. Thomas is also a major threat to catch the football out of the backfield as well as a very difficult cover for opposing linebackers. All of those attributes would seemingly fit any offense, but they are particularly useful in Auburn’s spread offense under new head coach Gus Malzahn because he excels at getting the ball to his players in space.” - Bud Elliott, SBNation
Roc Thomas averaged 9.8 yards per carry in his senior year at Oxford High School, a 6A high school in Alabama. Think about that. On average, a handoff to Roc Thomas on 1st & 10 would get you 7 inches away from a first down. That’s just hard to fathom for me.
Thomas committed to the Tigers in August of 2013, over offers from, well, everyone. The Oxford star was the prize recruit of Gus’s first full signing class as a head coach, and one of the top players Auburn has ever signed. His all around abilities at running back had Auburn fans salivating over what he would be able to do in Gus’s offense while Auburn was in the midst of bulldozing people in 2013.
Oh, and hey look! Commenter Ryan Sterritt left the first comment on his commitment article. Wonder what he’s up to these days. Oh, and further down you can see AU_Jonesy inferring he’s the second coming of Cadillac. Yikes.
After 2013, Auburn lost a Heisman finalist at running back, and nobody batted an eye. Tre Mason, who made a run at a 2,000 yard season, declared for the NFL Draft, but with Nick Marshall and backups Cameron-Artis Payne and Corey Grant returning, the Auburn backfield looked set. Expectations were even higher with 5* Mr. Football Roc Thomas set to join the group. And statistically, the Auburn offense improved, going from 5th to 3rd in offensive S&P+.
Artis-Payne emerged as the lead back in 2014, limiting Thomas to a few plays and packages throughout the season. With seniors Artis-Payne and Grant getting the bulk of the touches, Thomas only averaged four touches per game. It may not be fair, but the most vivid memory of his freshman season was the first snap of the Iron Bowl.
Luckily, I can’t find a good enough video to clip a gif from, so I won’t subject you to the 9 yard loss/fumble on the swing pass to open the game. And OH MY GOD I FORGOT BAMA ONSIDE KICKED IT OUT OF BOUNDS TO OPEN THE GAME, AND WE GAVE THAT SHIT RIGHT BACK TO THEM.
Anyways... Moving on to 2015. With Grant and CAP gone, the expectation was that Roc was going to get the job. He did in fact start the Louisville game in 2015, before leaving with an injury which nagged him the rest of the season. Just like CAP in 2014, 2015 saw a former 3* recruit coming from nowhere to become one of the best running backs in the SEC when Peyton Barber took over the starting role. Barber was able to parlay the opportunity into a 1000 yard season, and although he went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, he’e worked his way into a starting role with the Buccaneers in recent years.
Still stuck in the backup/package role, and with injuries nagging him through the season, Roc put up 464 yards on 55 touches, good for 8.4 yards per touch.
When Barber declared for the draft, it seemed pretty obvious that Roc would become the starter in 2016. That is, until rumors started swirling towards the end of the year that he was looking to transfer. Auburn was re-recruiting Jovon Robinson out of JUCO, which may or may not have had anything to do with it, seeing as Robinson was the #1 JUCO recruit in the country. Despite sticking through spring, Thomas announced he was transferring at the beginning of summer.
Thomas transferred to Jacksonville State, where his former high school coach was now the head coach. In his two remaining years of eligibility, Thomas compiled 2,364 yards from scrimmage and 21 total touchdowns.
Thomas went undrafted in 2018, but made the Vikings roster out of preseason anyways. He made his debut in Week 4, and totaled 8 carries for 30 yards the rest of the season. He is not currently on a roster.