He received an immediate opportunity, starting seven games as a right tackles in 2009. He moved inside to guard as a sophomore, starting eight of 13 games as Illinois led the Big Ten in rushing.
Firmly entrenched along the offensive line, Thornton started 10 of 11 games as a junior. With 25 career starts already under his belt, Thornton was moved to left tackle as a senior and received second-team All-Big Ten recognition from the conference's coaches.
He played in 11 games, starting 10 for the second consecutive season, and leaves Illinois with 35 career starts.
Thornton was invited to the Senior Bowl after helping lead the Illini to consecutive bowl victories.
Displays impressive upper-body strength to ragdoll and toss defenders aside at the point of attack. Possesses lateral fluidity and agility to close off the edge, and redirects with some suddenness to thwart the quick counter move. Targets decisively in space and possesses good burst to lead the second-level charge in the run game. Squares up nicely on the run and displays flexibility and suddenness to adjust to defenders coming from various angles in space. Plays with a bit of a nasty streak, and fights to the whistle. Versatile lineman with experience at guard and tackle.
NEGATIVES: Will get anxious and overextend at times off the snap. Leads with his shoulder and will drop his head when engaging defenders in space. Lacks the ideal height and length for a prototypical NFL tackle. Will get too upright in his kick-slide taking him out of position to utilize leverage on contact. Will stop moving his feet when asked to hold position, leaving him susceptible to being thrown aside or pulled to the ground.
COMPARES TO: Sean Locklear, OT, New York Giants - Thornton, like Locklear, may not possess the ideal frame to play tackle at the next level, but his physicality, flexibility and natural athleticism help him to compensate. A probable mid-round selection with starter upside.