Tennessee senior Omari Thomas is nearly done with his four years in Knoxville but still has the opportunity to return to Tennessee for one final season as a fifth-year senior in 2024.
The Memphis native revealed during a press conference on Tuesday that he hasn’t made a decision yet and has been primarily focused on this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt and finishing his senior season on a strong note.
“No, I haven’t decided yet but I’m going to go out there (against Vanderbilt) like it’s my last game,” Thomas said on Tuesday. “Just have fun and play free because you never know what could happen. It’s another opportunity so I’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.”
When asked if that future decision was something that he would address “in December after the season,” Thomas replied yes.
The COVID year grants affected players an extra year of eligibility, which is why Thomas – along with other players in the same position – has the option for a fifth year in collegiate football. While it’s certainly an interesting discussion around this time of the year, Thomas said on Tuesday that the conversation hasn’t been very active among his teammates.
When asked if he and his teammates have started the dialogue of who is potentially leaving and who is potentially staying or whether those talks will happen after the regular season finale, Thomas pointed to the latter.
“Next week,” Thomas said. “Yeah, we’re really just focusing on the game right now. That’s something that we just told each other. Like, it’s so much uncertainty, but what we do know is that we’re going to play Saturday. We get a chance to go out there and have fun, play with each other, regardless of who is leaving and who is coming back. This is an opportunity for this team to be together again. We’ve just got to embrace it and go out there and have fun.”
Thomas came to Tennessee as a four-star recruit in the Class of 2020 from Memphis’ Briarcrest Christian High School. The 6-foot-4 lineman saw immediate action in Jeremy Pruitt’s final year playing in all 10 games as a reserve lineman during his true freshman season.
Thomas’ stock continued to rise as a sophomore with six starts in 13 games during Josh Heupel’s first season. Thomas racked up 21 total tackles and four passes defended in his second year with Tennessee.
Omari Thomas increased his number of tackles in all four seasons of his Tennessee career with his best season coming as a senior in 2023. With two games still left on the schedule including the bowl, Thomas has 27 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one block this season.
AP No. 25 will host Vanderbilt at 3:30 p.m. ET in the regular season finale from Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
“They’re a team that plays hard,” Thomas said about Vanderbilt. “The majority of games they’ve been in, their losses, they’ve been in games. They’re a good football team. They’re going to come ready to play. In-state rivalry, so the hype around the game is going to be there, so we just have to be able to approach (things the right way), because we’re going to get their best shot.”
Omari Thomas Career Stats
- 2020 (Freshman) – 10 games, 10 tackles, 1 TFL
- 2021 (Sophomore) – 13 games, 21 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack, 4 passes defended
- 2022 (Junior) – 13 games, 26 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 4 passes defended, one forced fumble
- 2023 (Senior) – 10 games, 27 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 block