The only player to make both our Recruiting in Review series and Projecting the Future series, Tino Thomas has left his Memphis home and is enrolled at Tennessee for winter classes after grayshirting.
TINO THOMAS, 6-0, 190 ATH MEMPHIS [MELROSE HS]
Ratings: Rivals 3* No. 56 ATH, Scout 3* No. 93 WR, ESPN 3* No. 138 ATH, 247 3*. Chose UT over Southern Miss, Arkansas, Duke, Kentucky, Memphis and Mississippi State.
STRENGTHS: He is projected to play cornerback at Tennessee, where the Vols need all the help they can get. Definitely, Thomas' speed/size combo is the biggest asset as he may come onto campus along with fellow signee Daniel Gray as one of the two fastest defensive backs on the team. Also, Thomas is blessed with good size measuring in at a shade over 6-1. The young man has to have incredible resolve to come to campus, take the request from coaches to grayshirt after he was injured in the preseason in stride, work back and still enroll at UT as soon as he could. That's a guy who wants to be a Vol, and that's good stuff. He was also simply dynamic all over the field for Melrose, and if you don't believe me, look at the statistics below. Finallly, it doesn't hurt that he went to Melrose, a place the Vols desperately need a pipeline.
NEEDS WORK: His ball skills are certainly not expected to be great enough for him to help right away. He was a do-everything athlete at Melrose where he ran the ball, played some receiver, returned kicks and punts and played some defensive back. But he wasn't able to focus on one thing, and so from a technique standpoint, he'll be very raw. He has a thick build, but you wonder if he may not grow into a safety with that frame. Didn't have a lot of major offers, so you wonder if there's something from a football speed standpoint that doesn't stand out. Coming off an injury, he'll be rusty, too.
CREDENTIALS: Named to the MIAA Class 5A-6A Team by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Earned All-District 16-AAA honors via the Commercial Appeal. Notched FoxMemphis Preseason All-Mid South Team honors. Recorded 97 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four interceptions (one returned for TD), 22 pass breakups and one sack during senior campaign. Also ran for 900 yards and eight touchdowns, while collecting 280 receiving yards and a pair of scores. Gained 800 rushing yards and 110 receiving yards as a junior in 2009 to go with 11 touchdowns. Also returned a pair of kickoffs for TDs ... Defensively, totaled 48 tackles, 15 interceptions and five pass breakups as a junior.
OPTIMISTIC CEILING: I don't expect him to step right in and compete for immediate playing time, but Thomas has had an extra year to work out, rehab and prepare himself for this opportunity. UT's secondary is a place where playing time can be had, and Thomas has the athleticism to come in and at least get some snaps this season. I would love to eventually see him being a Julian Battle type player, and I think he's got that in him. I was very impressed with Thomas's film, and I'm glad he stuck it out and will return to Knoxville.