Shockingly, we are talking about Thomas playing for the Tigers in 2023.
It seemed likely that he would depart for the NFL after three seasons. It seemed impossible that he would take advantage of his COVID season and stay for a fifth. It took an injury to rob him of most of his 2022 to bring him back for a sixth season in the program, but here we are.
It is very fair and prudent to ask: Why do we think it can happen for Thomas now when it hasn’t happened yet? My answer is that there is always a reason things didn’t work out.
He flashed as a freshman but had to wait his turn behind the Power Rangers. His sophomore season saw him add weight in an attempt to become the prototype NFL defensive end that could set the edge. Brent Venables relied on a three-man front for much of that 2019 campaign and it seemed to be the right move for Thomas.
Unfortunately, adding that weight took away enough speed that Thomas was no longer special as an edge rusher. COVID and strep throat prevented him from being his best in 2020. He was good in 2021 but he thought he could be even better if he gave it one more try in 2022.
When he did get on the field last season, he looked great. He won Player of the Game against Boston College on only six snaps. Injuries just wouldn’t allow him the take the field most of the season.
The conservative would say the odds aren’t high. I concede that injuries can’t be predicted, but Thomas appears to have done everything possible to be in a position to finally break through and establish himself as a Day One edge rusher in the NFL Draft.