The Texas Longhorns continued their momentum in the 2014 class on Saturday evening with the unexpected pledge of Trinity Valley Community College tight end John Thomas, a prospect not previously known to be on the Texas radar.
The 'Horns desperately needed at least one if not two tight ends in the 2014 class, but entering the weekend had only extended an offer to California's Tyler Luatua, the top prospect at the position in the class. Then Texas offered the 6'6, 255-pound, a native of Bossier City, Louisiana who failed to qualify in the 2012 class after signing with LSU over offers from Arizona and Missouri. A four-star prospect at the time, he was one of the top-10 tight ends nationally in that class. Prior to his commitment to Texas, he held an offer from Auburn.
As with any junior-college prospect, the concern at this time is that he needs to have a successful upcoming academic year to stay on track to enroll at Texas, but the coaching staff apparently feels that he is on pace to do so and the dire need at tight end may have helped Thomas' case.
If 2013 Notre Dame signee Durham Smythe, the longtime Texas commit, was the best dual-threat tight end Texas had received a commitment from out of high school in a decade or so, Thomas also fits into that mold. With listed 4.77 speed in the 40 coming out of high school, he's not a burner, but he's also not a high school wide receiver. More importantly, he has in-line blocking experience, an attribute that is increasingly harder to find with many big-bodied receivers used primarily as pass-catchers in high school.
John Thomas Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
In limited highlights from his senior season, Thomas doesn't exactly look like 2015 pledge Maea Teuhema putting opponents on their back, but he is capable of getting some movement and does a solid job of walling off and sealing opponents. Having spent two years in Trinity Valley's strength and conditioning program by the time he arrives at Texas should help Thomas gain more functional strength to win battles.
Athletically, Thomas is a solid athlete who is more remarkable for his pure size and ability to present a tall target than any exceptional quickness either in short areas or on the top end, though he does run away from opponents at times when he gets into the open field and does a nice job in the redzone of beating defenders on pivot routes. He probably won't be a guy who can stretch the seam vertically in college like Smythe, but he should be a decent asset in the passing game.
The hope is that Thomas can step onto campus and immediately contribute as an attached tight end capable of adding some value in the passing game while holding his own against similarly-sized defensive ends. Right now, it's a solid bet that will happen given his skill set, as long as the Louisiana native keeps his grades in order.