The Knights clinched a playoff berth on Friday, led by its defense and senior four-star linebacker Adonis Thomas, who put in 18 tackles and hauled in a one-handed touchdown in the process.
Already a member of the Scout.com 300, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder may climb in the rankings before all is said and done. His recruitment has followed suit this fall, too, as Alabama, Florida and LSU are all trying to make a move at his verbal commitment.
While he was plenty coveted before the fall, Thomas’ stock has taken off this season after a move to middle linebacker, something coach Todd Wofford said nearly didn’t take place.
“We made a decision in the offseason to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4,” he said. “In that, we were wondering if we’d leave him on the outside or bring him inside. We felt like it would be a good idea to have him be the MIKE (middle linebacker) on the inside because of the fact that they can’t run away from him. And with his speed and his size, we get the best of both worlds. At 220 (pounds), he can plug and assault in the middle, and with his athletic ability and speed, he can do his thing in space, cover backs out and that type of thing.
“We’ve let him do a bit of both, even rushing the passer. But for the most part, he’s been playing MIKE this year and he’s transformed into more of a complete linebacker. I think he’s even surprised himself this year. He’s been so much more physical this year.”
Wofford says the staff knew of his potential to have more of an impact at the position, but it’s come to fruition with tangible results against many different types of offenses.
“He can still get sideline to sideline for all of the spread teams that you face, and we face a lot of them," he said. "You don’t think a MIKE linebacker would have 12-17 tackles against a spread team, but he has the speed to get those numbers from a middle linebacker position,” he said. “That’s the thing that makes him unique. I’ve had Trey Johnson (Ohio State ) and A.J. Johnson (Tennessee), you knew those guys were inside (linebacker) guys. The thing that makes Adonis unique, which is what everybody likes, is that he projects at all three linebacker spots.”
As for the Crimson Tide, the school most feel has the inside track A.T. Thomas after he backed off of his Gator pledge last month, the progression has Nick Saban and Kirby Smart thinking about Thomas mirroring what he’s done as a senior.
“Alabama likes him at MIKE, and he can be a MIKE,” Wofford said. “He’s 17, still growing. He’ll be 240, 245 (pounds) at this time next year. You can’t say he’s just this. That’s the value he has. You can fit him into whatever kind of defense you’re running.”
Scout currently pegs Thomas as the No. 23 outside linebacker in the class of 2015. He’s scheduled to unofficially visit Alabama on November 15, when the Tide hosts current No. 1 Mississippi State. An official visit will take place sometime after the season. LSU and Florida will also get official visits from the senior, whose not expected to make another commitment for some time.