Thomas signed with Tennessee as a relatively lightly regarded prospect, and saw most of his playing time as a freshman on special teams. He earned the starting left tackle position as a sophomore, however, and went on to start the next 25 games of his career at the blind-side position.
Despite his experience at left tackle, then-head coach Derek Dooley and his staff moved Thomas inside to left guard for his senior season.
The move paid off for the Volunteers in that Thomas earned second-team All-SEC honors in his first season at the new position and helped pave the way for the conference's second most explosive offense (behind only Texas A&M). It may further pay off for Thomas, as he demonstrated the versatility to intrigue NFL teams needing help all along the offensive line.
Thomas plays with excellent knee bend, giving him the base to handle powerful bull rushers, as well as the spring to easily move left and right to remain square to quicker pass rushers. Thomas has an explosive punch that he uses often to knock defenders back in the running game. He steps up quickly to seal off the reeling defender and erase him from the play.
Thomas exhibits good effort to get to the second level. He proved his mental toughness and team-first approach by agreeing to the position change as a senior. Is physically tough, as well, having started the final 37 consecutive games of his career.
WEAKNESSES: While Thomas has demonstrated some of the traits necessary to move back to offensive tackle and be successful, there are reasons why he was moved inside.
For one, Thomas is susceptible to speed rushers, as lacks the sustained foot speed to earn top grades as a pass blocker. He gets an aggressive punch in but often stops moving his feet as he does so and therefore if his punch doesn't stop the pass rush entirely, leaving himself vulnerable to an outside speed rush or quick counter back inside.
Thomas can get himself in trouble by playing too low, on occasion, as well, giving savvy defenders ample opportunity to simply "swim" over the top of him with a quick arm-over move.
Finally, while demonstrating good lateral agility in pass protection, Thomas has a consistent hitch when attempting to pull, making himself much better suited to a power drive-blocking scheme than a zone-blocking attack that asks him to consistently get to and make adjustments to moving targets at the second level.
COMPARES TO: Marshall Newhouse, OL, Green Bay Packers -- Like Newhouse, Thomas has the size and athleticism to handle a variety of roles up front and is a dependable, hard-working player. He is a bit of a 'tweener, however, whose best assets may in fact be this versatility and toughness.