In what appeared to be just another one of his spectacular highlight plays, De'Anthony Thomas turned around at the last moment, leaped near the sideline and came down with a one-handed catch while dragging a foot inbounds.
This happened during informal warmups at an Oregon practice. Except, it wasn't the typical highlight from Oregon's do-it-all sophomore standout. This particular grab happened at a practice leading up to the Rose Bowl last December, and it happened in front of Oregon receiver B.J. Kelley — with Thomas playing defensive back.
While dabbling in defense back then, Thomas could have a much more demanding role on the other side of the ball this week.
With Oregon's defense depleted by injuries, a UO source said Monday that it's possible Thomas will play defensive back when the No. 1 Ducks play host to No. 14 Stanford on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
"I wouldn't be surprised," the UO source said.
Oregon's defensive secondary is particularly thin. The latest loss is to junior free safety Avery Patterson, who is out for the remainder of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Ducks' victory over California on Saturday, according to another UO source.
Patterson became the starting free safety only after senior John Boyett, a preseason All-America candidate, opted to have season-ending surgery on both of his knees in early September.
Two of Oregon's backup cornerbacks, Troy Hill and Dior Mathis, also sat out the Cal game with injuries. That left the Ducks with just two healthy cornerbacks -- sophomore starters Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- who have extensive experience.
"That's hard back there, but obviously we're going to try to get somebody ready," UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said after practice Monday.
"We're getting thinner," he added, "but we'll find a way to make this work."
Thomas was the nation's No. 1 cornerback prospect two years ago at Los Angeles' Crenshaw High School -- and the nation's No. 1 "athlete."
He was a "gunner" on Oregon's punt coverage as a true freshman last season and was credited with two tackles. (He has two tackles this season, too.)
If Thomas were to play at cornerback, the Ducks could move Ekpre-Olomu to safety -- where he has practiced in the past -- and keep sophomore Erick Dargan as the nickel cornerback and the backup at both safety spots.
Thomas, the Ducks' leading receiver last year, emerged as a Heisman candidate with a sensational September this season. Those Heisman hopes have faded against Pac-12 competition, but Thomas remains one of the most explosive players in college football.
In 24 games for Oregon, Thomas has scored 30 total touchdowns as a runner, receiver and returner.
Last month Aliotti was asked specifically about playing Thomas as a cornerback.
"In a heartbeat. In a heartbeat," Aliotti said. "But let's not go there."
Some have suggested that Oregon sophomore receiver Keanon Lowe, a two-way star at Jesuit High, could also be a candidate to fill in as a defensive back.
USC star receiver Marqise Lee made the same move last week, practicing at safety. He entered the game briefly as a safety against Arizona State on Saturday and is expected to continue practicing on both offense and defense.
Thomas originally committed to USC before his senior year of high school. After he switched his commitment and signed with Oregon, one rumor suggested that USC wanted to use Thomas as a defensive back — and not on offense. Thomas, however, has said that was not his reason for choosing the Ducks.