Memphis has become an area of emphasis in recruiting for the Tennessee coaching staff as they are nearing the end of their second recruiting cycle on the job. Despite being in the state, Memphis is still six hours away, and top prospects have consistently been poached by other schools. Relationships were hurt under the previous coaching staff, but Pruitt and Co. are slowly working to dig their feet back in Memphis. When Eric Gray signed with Tennessee, both him and Greg Emmerson spoke about the importance of recruiting the 901.
In the 2020 class, the Vols have targeted several of the top players from west Tennessee. One of those players, Omari Thomas, released his top 12 on Christmas, and Tennessee was among those schools.
— Omari “Big O” Thomas⚡️ (@901_sxvxge) December 25, 2018
Ole Miss, Clemson, Oklahoma, Memphis, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, and Florida make up the other 11 schools.
Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Thomas is a four-star prospect and the No. 74 overall player in the 2020 class. He is ranked as the 7th-best offensive tackle in and the No. 5 player in Tennessee in the 2020 cycle as well.
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There may be twelve schools listed, but Tennessee is at the top end of those twelve in terms of Thomas’ interest. The Vols are perceived to be one of the favorites to land the 6-foot-5, 301 pound lineman from Briarcrest High School.
The Tennessee coaching staff has made Thomas a priority since early on in their tenures in Knoxville. Just a month into the job, Jeremy Pruitt visited Thomas in school last January, and that is right around when the Vols offered him. Thomas visited Knoxville three times in 2018 and has consistently spoken highly of the coaching staff. Earlier this month, the coaches were back in Memphis and visited with the burly lineman once again.
Despite being listed as an offensive lineman, Tennessee is recruiting him to play defensive line. He is certainly capable of doing both, and he does both well. Thomas is a very talented football player, and this past season he was a finalist for the Mr. Football award for a lineman. As a defender, he had 54 solo tackles and another 23 assists. He had 13 tackles for a loss and sacked the quarterback 11 times. Thomas also forced two fumbles and returned one of them for a touchdown.
After taking a look at his film, it’s clear that Tennessee absolutely made the right decision offering him to play defense. He is a much better defensive lineman than he is offensive lineman. Thomas is a fast player, and he’s athletic for his size. He uses his hands well to create leverage and separate, and he is a very good tackler. He will, however, need to work on his pad level. He is consistently much higher than his opposition, and his base isn’t always that good either. He will need to correct both of those issues to better utilize his strength. He is also soft at the point of contact. He does a good job once he makes contact of using his hands and strength to win, but he needs to improve his game at the initial point of contact.
Thomas does bring a very unique element to his game. He is a very solid pass rusher. He will likely play defensive tackle, and if somebody his size can provide a pass rushing presence on the interior of the line, it provides the defense with an extra element to utilize.
While there is still a long way to go in his recruitment, Tennessee has positioned themselves nicely for the long run. Omari Thomas is a very talented player and would be a great addition to the 2020 class if the Vols can pull him in. They’ll have stiff competition, but right now the Vols are in a great position with one of the best players in the state.