Almost a month ago to the day, we wrote about the status of Tennessee’s defensive line recruiting and some of the names they could go after to salvage the class. Listed was 4-star Memphis defensive tackle Omari Thomas. Today, Thomas announced his commitment to Tennessee at his U.S. Army All-American jersey presentation.
Thomas hails out of Briarcrest Christian as the 104th ranked player nationally, according to 247Sports. He’s the 8th best defensive tackle and the 4th overall prospect in Tennessee. Despite the local connections, Thomas’ name did not gain traction with the Volunteers until later in the season when Tennessee began ramping up their recruitment of him.
Originally, it was turning out to be an Ole Miss-Auburn battle. In fact, here’s what we wrote in the aforementioned article.
Being a bit late to the game here means Tennessee needs a bit of luck to become the favorite for Thomas. The best they can hope for is to win the final three games of the season and for Ole Miss and Auburn to collapse down the stretch. Otherwise they are currently fighting an uphill battle.
What happened? Well, Ole Miss fired their head coach Matt Luke after a disappointing finish to the season, and Auburn went full Auburn and put their head coach’s job in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Tennessee powered through the final stretch and set themselves up to be his landing spot.
The encouraging news with Thomas is the progress he made in his senior season. Prior to 2019, Thomas’ ranking was based mostly on his potential. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, he clearly had the build to be an elite lineman...but he looked quite raw.
Fast forward to this season, and Thomas showed how potential can be capitalized upon. Thomas has great body control and utilizes every bit of his strength. His speed off the line is okay for someone of his size—it’s the closing speed that stuns. It surprises his opponents and leads to some extra sacks and tackles for loss. Originally he was more a project player. Now, he looks like he could contribute in Year 1. Another thing to note is how easily he could switch to a position on the offensive line. He has great initial push, stays low to the ground, and already has the requisite size.
To say this is a key addition to the class might be underplaying it a bit. Thomas’ commitment (and hopefully signature) guarantees that the Volunteers have met a bare minimum for talent addition that they needed for the 2020 class. Right now Tennessee has just one other blue chip defensive tackle committed in Dominic Bailey. They still have a good shot at other prospects like 4-star defensive end Tyler Baron and 4-star defensive end Jay Hardy (committed to Auburn) but for the most part their options are running low.
The regular season portion of the recruiting cycle was not entirely kind to Tennessee. Hardy unexpectedly choose Auburn and B.J. Ojulari flipped to the LSU Tigers. What was supposed to be a fantastic defensive line class had to regroup and try to make it to “satisfactory” level.
Thomas’ commitment achieves that goal. In order to go above it, Tennessee will need to add someone on the outside. For now, let’s all focus on the top-150 player that the Volunteers just grabbed.