On Monday, Tennessee landed one of their biggest targets in the 2020 class, both figuratively and literally.
Four-star defensive/offensive lineman Omari Thomas from Memphis announced his commitment to the Vols on Monday afternoon during his All-American jersey presentation at his high school, Briarcrest Christian. RTI’s recruiting partner, VR2, was at the event and streamed the ceremony live.
After his announcement, Thomas spoke with Matt Ray of VR2 to detail his decision and why he chose the Vols.
According to Thomas, he felt an overwhelming sense of “happiness” when he finally decided it was Tennessee where he wanted to spend his collegiate career.
“It was just a whole bunch of happiness,” Thomas told Ray of his decision to commit to the Vols. “I was glad that I was able to make this decision. It was just a true blessing.”
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman is ranked as the No. 104 overall player, No. 8 defensive tackle, and No. 4 prospect in the state of Tennessee in the 2020 class per the 247Sports Composite rankings. Before his announcement on Monday, Thomas was the highest-rated uncommitted prospect in the state.
That changed on Monday, though. But Thomas didn’t know until a few days ago that the Vols would be the team he would pick.
Thomas had a group of three finalists — Tennessee, Auburn, and Texas A&M — and up until a couple days before his announcement, Thomas wasn’t sure which of those schools he’d be going to.
“Two days ago, honestly,” Thomas replied when asked when he knew Tennessee was the school he’d be committing to. “I took my in-home visit and just wanted to see how everything was going to go and just took the weekend to think and chill and relax and talk to God. And I’m glad with with happened.”
The Vols now have commitments from 18 prospects in their 2020 class with Thomas pledging himself to Tennessee. Of those 18 commits, half of them (9) are inside Tennessee’s own state borders. Thomas is the Vols’ second-highest-rated commit in the cycle, trailing only fellow in-state prospect Keshawn Lawrence from Ensworth High School in Nashville.
One of the big selling points for Tennessee to Thomas was UT’s head coach. Thomas likes that the Vols have a defensive-minded leader of the football program in Jeremy Pruitt, an the versatile lineman appreciates that his head coach will have Tennessee’s defense at the forefront of his mind.
Thomas also likes that Tennessee is viewed as an underdog right now.
“Him being able to show that he’s a defensive minded coach and show what he’s really about is really good to me,” Thomas said of Pruitt. “It shows that I can come in and he’ll really focus on working on the defense.
“A lot of people, I believe they’re gonna sleep on us. But me personally, I like being the underdog because who doesn’t like beating people at the top? That’s what I like about it.”
Thomas said when he informed Pruitt of his decision to commit to Tennessee, the Vols’ second-year head coach was with his wife at the time. “They went crazy,” Thomas said to Ray.
Now that Thomas is in the boat, who is he trying to bring along with him?
“My top target right now is Jabari Small,” Thomas explained. “He’s announcing tomorrow, so I’m spending the rest of my day recruiting him because I want to play with Jabari.”
Small is Thomas’ teammate at Briarcrest Christian, and the two were finalists for Tennessee’s Mr. Football award in their division of high school football. Thomas won the award over Small and 2021 Vol commit Elijah Howard. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back is planning on making a commitment announcement at 3:30 Eastern/2:30 Central on Tuesday, December 10th. The Vols are viewed as a top choice for Small, who just decommitted from Ole Miss on December 2nd.
Thomas committed to the Vols on Monday, but he isn’t planning on signing during the early signing period in a week and a half. The highly-ranked defensive lineman still plans on signing and officially becoming part of the Vols’ 2020 class in February on National Signing Day.