Tennessee defensive tackle Omari Thomas is returning to Knoxville for his senior season, the Memphis native shared with the media during Orange Bowl press conference’s Tuesday.
In fact, Thomas “never thought about” leaving Knoxville and declaring for the NFL Draft this offseason as he’s still pursuing his degree in Journalism and Electronic Media.
The 6-foot-4, 320 pound defensive tackle has been a mainstay in the middle of Tennessee’s defense the last two seasons, totaling 45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Thomas totaled two sacks this season including the lone sack the Vols tallied against Bryce Young and Alabama.
Thomas added four pass deflections and a critical forced fumble and fumble recovery in Tennessee’s win over Florida.
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As a junior, Thomas was Tennessee’s best interior defensive lineman making his return for his senior season a major win for Rodney Garner and the Vols. Thomas has been a strong SEC defensive lineman over the last two seasons. If he can take his game to another level this offseason the Vols’ defensive line could take another step forward.
While Thomas has flashed more potential than any other interior Tennessee defensive lineman, there’s plenty of returning Vols that could also elevate the group’s play next fall. Bryson Eason, Elijah Simmons and Tyre West are all back in Knoxville for the 2023 season.
Thomas and the rest of Tennessee’s defensive tackles still have one more challenge coming this season as the Vols battle Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Kick off between the Vols and Tigers is at 8 p.m. ET. Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy and Katie George are on the call for ESPN.