Tavion Thomas emerged as the lead back for Utah football during the 2021 season, helping the Utes finish strong on what turned out to be a top 15 team that earned the program’s first Rose Bowl appearance.
While Thomas finished the season with 1,108 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns — third-most in the country — his performance once the calendar flipped to October really displayed what the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder brings to the field.
Over the Utes’ final nine games last season, Thomas scored 19 touchdowns — at least one per game, with back-to-back four-touchdown games.
During that stretch, he also averaged 20.3 carries and 108.2 rushing yards per game, with a 5.3 per-carry average.
Now, the junior back is earning recognition as one of the nation’s top running backs.
247 Sports’ Brad Crawford ranked college football’s top 25 running backs, and Thomas came in at No. 14.
“One of the reasons we’ve projected Utah to reach the College Football Playoff this season is due to the return of Tavion Thomas as one of the Pac-12’s top players,” Crawford wrote.
“... He knows the expectations are high once again as potentially the Pac-12’s rushing leader in 2022. Utah opens at Florida and has several spotlight games on the docket.”
While the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC dominated the top 10 in Crawford’s list, Thomas is in contention to be the best back in the West.
Of Crawford’s top 25 running backs, four are from the Pac-12. That includes:
- No. 24, Xazavian Valladay, Arizona State (a transfer from Wyoming).
- No. 17, Travis Dye, USC (a transfer from Oregon).
- No. 12, Zach Charbonnet, UCLA.
Thomas will have the chance to face each of these three, with Utah playing at Arizona State on Sept. 24, at UCLA on Oct. 8 and hosting USC on Oct. 15.