September 4, 2009

Countdown to kickoff: No.1 - Earl Thomas

Name: Earl Thomas

Position: Defensive back

Classification: Sophomore

Prep credentials: The former West-Orange Stark star was a four-star prospect (5.9) who was ranked as the nation's No.12 athlete and the No.106 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals. Thomas was ranked as the No.30 overall prospect in the state by Lone Star Recruiting and ranked No.19 by Rivals.

Click here to see Thomas' high school film

2008 stats: Thomas started 13 games at strong safety as a redshirt freshman, finishing second on the team in tackles with 72, while also recording recorded two interceptions, a team-best and UT freshman record 17 pass break-ups, three tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and a blocked punt.

2008 Honors: Was a consensus freshman All-America selection and was tabbed honorable mention All-Big 12.

Click here to see Thomas' 2008 highlights

Best game in 2008: Take your pick. I decided to go with his performance against Oklahoma State. With the Texas offense failing to put up other-worldly numbers against the Cowboys, Thomas made plays all over the field, finishing with nine tackles, two pass break-ups, a quarterback pressure and a forced fumble.

Scouting Report: When you look back at Mack Brown era at Texas, you can make a strong case that no young player has ever ascended to such an important role on the Texas defense in such a short time. As the Longhorns head into the 2009 season, it can be argued that there's not a more important player on the defensive roster than the 5-10, 190-pound playmaker because he does a little bit of everything in the secondary.

As the strong safety in the defense, Thomas is a sideline-to-sideline missile in run support. He's as sure of a tackler as the Longhorns have in the secondary and he plays with the same kind of downhill aggressiveness that the team enjoyed with Michael Griffin roaming the field in the middle part of the decade.

More than his aggressiveness and his junkyard dog mentality, the aspect that makes Thomas a potentially special player at the collegiate level is his versatility. When the Longhorns jump into their nickel package, which will be often, Thomas will bounce back and forth between the slot and strong safety, depending on what Will Muschamp wants to go with. Thomas' cover ability was a bit of a question mark coming into college, but he's proven very quickly that he's as dependable in coverage as anyone in the program in pass man-coverage.

Thomas also possesses terrific ball skills, is one of the team's best special teams players and a natural nose for the ball. His ability to put his imprint on every game makes him a truly unique player. On top of everything else, Thomas has also emerged as a vocal leader and captain of the secondary.

The big hope… Thomas is the next Thorpe Award winner in burnt orange… this season.

The big worry… Only injuries will keep him from a great season.

Did you know? Was part of a rebuilding project following Hurricane Katrina in his hometown.

NFL Scouting report: "I don't know how many people on your site will remember this guy, but I he reminds me of Thomas Everett, who was a guy that I played against when he was at Baylor. (Thomas) is bigger than he is, but he's always in the action. Some guys seem to play with a lucky charm in their pocket because they are always in the right place at the right time. Thomas is like that. He's just a great player."

The bottom line: In a lot of ways this is Thomas' defense. He's the glue to the entire defensive unit and if the group makes huge strides as a unit in 2009, Thomas will be a cornerstone of the improvement.

No.2 - Kyle Hix
No.3 - Aaron Williams
No.4 - Alex Okafor
No.5 - Brandon Collins
No.6 - Russell Carter
No.7 - Fozzy Whittaker
No.8 - Justin Tucker
No.9 - Lamarr Houston
No.10 - Dan Buckner
No.11 - Eddie Jones
No.12 - Tre Newton
No.13 - Emmanuel Acho
No.14 - John Chiles
No.15 - Kheeston Randall
No.16 - David Snow
No.17 - Curtis Brown
No.18 - Malcolm Williams
No.19 - Keenan Robinson
No.20 - Vondrell McGee
No.21 - Blake Gideon
No.22 - Adam Ulatoski
No.23 - Ben Alexander
No.24 - James Kirkendoll
No.25 - Jared Norton

More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!