Name: Orlando Thomas*
High School: Copperas Cove
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
- Texas (committed 2/13/2011)
- Texas A&M
Death, taxes, and a surprise visitor at a Texas Junior Day. The former two are slightly more certain than the latter, but not by much these days. In 2009, it was Greg Daniels and Chris Jones. In 2011? Copperas Cove ATH Orlando Thomas, a prospect who was not on the list of attendees as late as the Friday and Saturday before the first Texas Junior Day, only to show up, receive an offer, and commit.
In the context of what looked like a lost weekend to offer defensive backs because news of former defensive backs coach Jerry Gray taking the Tennessee Titans DC position broke on Saturday evening, only hours before the Texas Junior Day began and hours before Duane Akina would return from his brief time in the desert, the commitment from Thomas, the fourth Texas 2012 commit, was even more of a surprise.
And also a momentum boost for a fanbase in no small amount of shock at the lack of commitments on the day normally known as Christmas for Longhorns recruitniks -- by late afternoon of JD1, the Longhorns had not yet reeled in a single commitment on the day, exactly a year after having landed nine already by that point and another commitment later in the day.
Without the commitment of Thomas, who clearly made the decision to commit to the University of Texas and to Mack Brown's vision of the program moving forward rather than to a position coach, JD1 would have been on the verge of disaster, especially in the opinion of those watching from around the rest of the Big 12, eager to proclaim the demise of the league's dominant program in recruiting, if not championships.
Orlando Thomas Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
From the perspective of evaluating the 5-11, 175-pound Thomas, it's both a blessing and a curse that he plays quarterback for his high school team. It's a blessing because it's proof positive that the coaching wanted to put their best athlete at the position and Thomas as the best athlete on the team. It's a curse because running quarterbacks play downfield and cornerbacks, the position at which Thomas projects at Texas, spend a great deal of time going backwards.
In other words, while his offensive highlights show the top-end speed of Thomas, his short-area quickness, and fluid hips that allow him to shake some would-be tacklers, his highlights don't say anything about his backpedal, his transition ability, his tackling ability, or his ball skills.
Most seasons, the Texas defensive staff would have worked out an athlete like Thomas at cornerback at a summer camp to get a perspective on his raw athletic ability at the position. Only one small problem -- the only coach who would have seen Thomas in a summer camp on the staff at the time the Cove prospect was offered was Mack Brown, who always been more closely associated with the offensive side of the ball as a former running back and offensive coordinator.
So it's possible that the coaching staff is simply going on their projections of Thomas as cornerback and hasn't seen him play the position. There aren't any questions about the athleticism of Thomas and his coach describes him as a strong competitor, so the only real question with Thomas is how quickly he can learn the position. And who better to help him learn the position than the new/old Texas defensive backs coach who has molded three Thorpe Award winners, Duane Akina?
Thomas is an electrifying zone-read quarterback who will most likely get recruited as an athlete. Shows elite quickness and footwork that could project at either slot or cornerback with some technical polish. Will have adequate size for either position but will need to continue filling out and adding upper-body strength. Reaches 0-60 in a hurry but does appear a bit quicker than fast and flashes good not great long-speed. Flashes great feet, balance and body control. Sudden and very shifty in movements and very difficult to wrap up at the high school level as he can get small through the tight creases and hit the seams just as they open. Shows great stop-start and jump-cut skill eluding in and out of traffic. Lateral footwork and quickness is outstanding. Can stop, change direction and cutback on a dime; hips are very loose making cornerback a natural spot for him. His blend of great quickness, sharp footwork and hip fluidity should allow him to mirror receivers tightly in off-man coverages and recover. Tight out of his cuts as well. Ball skills are very good as are his awareness skills from playing quarterback. We do feel like his top-end speed may be tested as well as his size and strength when asked to press and jam bigger college receivers. Will need to show he can come up and tackle and support the run as well. The transition to a slot receiver position may be smoother and we do not rule out an all-purpose RB role with his natural running skill-set and vision. Overall, the versatile and athletic Thomas has big-play quickness and elusiveness and a lot of natural ability to develop once he settles in at one position.