Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions here. In this edition, we discuss Tennessee hosting an important Class of 2020 lineman this weekend.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Omari Thomas is one the best prospects from Tennessee in the 2020 class. He’s also one of the most intriguing at this point because it’s not clear which side of the ball he’s going to end up on. At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Thomas locks down the edge of the offensive line and constantly disrupts opposing offenses because it’s tough to block someone his size with his natural athleticism.
Thomas caught the Tennessee coaching staff’s interest a few months ago. The Volunteers offered him on Jan. 16, and he’s coming to Knoxville for a visit this weekend.
“Just to see how the environment is,” Thomas told SEC Country about what he wants from the visit. “If it’s a family environment. See if my game will fit into their system.”
It’ll be an important visit in the hopes of a return in the future. Thomas said he has one of the best relationships with defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. The Volunteers need to continue building on that momentum.
The feel of the program and relationship with the coaching staff are going to be very important factors in Thomas’ recruitment. It’s a good sign the Vols staff is already standing out to him before he sees what they have to offer in person.
“They are trying to do something special,” Thomas said. “And it’s possible. Especially with the coaching staff they have. It’s a great staff that just came in.”
Thomas talks with Rocker and offensive line coach Will Friend about once a week. The two likely will be fighting over which side of the ball Thomas will end up playing.
“It’s really his personality,” Thomas said of Friend. “He’s one of those coaches that I can tell he’s not going to beat you down. He’s going to teach you. He’ll still get on to you but he’s going to get the job done, but it won’t be in a hateful way.”
“He’s high-electric,” Thomas said of Rocker. “You can tell he’s kind of laid back, but he’s going to get the job done. I can tell. I talk to them on the phone and they are going to get the job done. They know how to get into you, but not beat you down.”
It’s good the coaches personalities are standing out to recruits. That and the coach’s backgrounds are about all that can be sold to recruits right now, along with playing time at some positions. The program hasn’t reached elite heights for the past decade and the team is coming off its first 4-8 season in school history. Without a winning program to point toward, the personality and vision of the coaches are what will have to stand out.
This will be a long recruitment, but the Vols are in a solid spot early on for a prospect who already has drawn a lot of interest from top SEC programs.
Alabama started reaching out a few weeks ago. LSU coach Ed Orgeron is another coach with whom Thomas has developed a relationship. Ole Miss has been talking with Thomas and is a threat because the campus is less than 1½ hours from his home. He said he also hopes Florida will reach out soon.
“Playing in the SEC, that’s big boy football,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t matter where I play, but that’s big.”
One thing to follow will be whether he winds up on the offensive or defensive line of the ball. He’s so raw on both sides it’s tough to decide, though it’s looking like the defensive line. That’s where Pruitt has told him he likely would end up at Tennessee. Orgeron is getting excited about the hopes of coaching him on the defensive line. I believe he likes to play the defensive side of the ball more.
“Offensively, I feel that I can use my quickness and my feet to pass protect,” Thomas said. “I like to get up the field to the safeties whenever I’m pulling. I feel that I use my speed very well. Defensively, I read the block pretty well and find the ball to make a play.”
Thomas will continue playing both sides of the ball for Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. He said he wants to get stronger and even stretches every day with the hopes of becoming taller. He’s going to be an interesting in-state prospect to watch.
Pruitt has said he wants to own the state of Tennessee in recruiting. The Vols aren’t in a great spot with many of the top in-state 2019 prospects. The Class of 2020 might be when he can deliver.
Vols make the cut
Tennessee is in the mix for a couple of top defensive line prospects. It made the cut for 4-star defensive tackle C.J. Clark.
No order UNC🐏,NCSTATE🐺,Tennessee 🍊, UGA🐶, USC🐔 pic.twitter.com/61MbEOLehk
— CeeJay✨ (@cfrmda4) April 10, 2018
The Vols will battle out the rest of his recruitment with Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and NC State.
The coaching staff is trying to rebuild the defensive line in a hurry. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Clark would help beef up this side of the ball.
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