Tennessee is trying their best to land some of the top players out of Ohio in the 2020 class. The Vols haven’t gotten as much traction with the top-ranked player in the state, but one of his teammates is still very much interested in UT.
Jaheim Thomas is a four-star outside linebacker who plays for Princeton High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thomas is teammates with five-star offensive tackle and Ohio State commit Paris Johnson Jr. and four-star defensive tackle Darrion Henry. The three have taken visits together, but it’s clear that Thomas wants to forge his own path.
That proved to be true on Sunday when he released his list of top schools. Despite holding an offer from Ohio State, a school he’s wanted an offer from for a while and finally got on March 30th, he didn’t include the Buckeyes on his list. He did, however, include Tennessee, and the Vols made the cut along with LSU, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Michigan State, Maryland, and Louisville. He added that he’s “not a package deal” with anyone.
Doing what’s best for me not a package deal… pic.twitter.com/EWQlM0kM83
— Jaheim (@JaheimThomas454) June 2, 2019
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Thomas is the No. 272 overall prospect, No. 20 outside linebacker, and No. 4 player in the state of Ohio in the 2020 class. His teammates are ranked just above him in the state rankings, with Johnson being the No. 1 overall player in the state and Henry ranked No. 2.
The Princeton product has visited Tennessee twice since picking up an offer from them on January 11th. He came to Knoxville for a Junior Day event on January 26th and visited again on March 15th. When he visited in March, he came with his teammates, Johnson and Henry.
Tennessee’s recruiting ace, tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer, has been one of the main points of contact with the Vols and Thomas. Inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Kevin Sherrer and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke have also been involved in his recruitment.
Thomas is a long, tall defender who uses his athleticism and elite length and reach effectively. He’s a very disruptive linebacker both in the run game and passing game. Thomas defends well when asked to spread out and go after receivers or running backs in the flat, and he can keep his own running downfield in pass coverage. He’s not going to wow you with his speed, but he’s quick enough to keep up with running backs and chase down quarterbacks. Thomas has a good motor, and his long arms give him an edge. He’ll need to work on technique, hand placement, and footwork as a pass rusher, but he’s already stronger in other areas than other outside linebackers.
As a junior last season, Thomas totaled 38 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and an interception he returned for a touchdown in nine games according to GMCSports.com.
Tennessee doesn’t have an outside linebacker — or any linebacker for that matter — committed to them in their 2020 class right now. The Vols also only have one player from Ohio on their roster currently, and that’s offensive lineman Nathan Niehaus. The redshirt junior is from Cincinnati and played for Colerain High School.