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Damien Thigpen’s talent this season was overshadowed by that of Johnathan Franklin. Thigpen, though, still racked up 1,000+ total yard for the Bruins this season. During the 38-28 win over USC, Thigpen tore his ACL and would miss the remaining three games of the season. So what kind of player is he? The LA Times described him as a big weapon in a small package. A dynamic player who can run and catch the ball. He led UCLA in yards per punt return and made big plays down the stretch.
THE GOOD: Thigpen was a very good “reserve”. He came in and held his own when Johnathan Franklin needed rest. A great player to build on during the coming seasons. His versatility played a key role in his success. With the number of pass plays in the backfield this year, his catching and running ability drew attention from the defense and allowed us to open up plays down the field. His sound fundamentals were a key in earning the trust of his teammates.
THE BAD: After suffering a shoulder injury last year, a knee injury this year, and finally a torn ACL this year, it becomes blatantly obvious that Thigpen is injury prone. At what point will we have to settle for less to assure the health of him? If we ask him to carry the ball next year as much as Franklin did this year, he is bound to be injured. Both him and Steven Manfro struggled at times to retain possession of the ball on punt returns. After finally moving Shaq Evans to the position of returner, can we really go back?
Overall grade: B-
Why? Because though he proved worthy in many circumstances, his play was inconsistent and his injuries restricted our offensive choices. To earn a B+, in my book, Thigpen needed to lessen his fumbles on returns and “show up” on a regular basis. if not for a 98 yard game against Arizona State and a 74 yard game against Nebraska, Thigpen’s grade would have dropped to a C+/C.