Player Capsule: Khaylan Thomas
Position: WILL / SPUR
Weight: 220 pounds
2015 season quick review: Thomas played a bit last season as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, and was not credited with any tackles.
Defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take: "He's a good young linebacker. We liked him when we were recruiting him and he's just what we thought he would be. He has some good natural feel for the game and there's a lot to like about him. I think he's capable of being a darn good player for us, I really do. It's the same thing, developing the habits and doing things with the same effort and focus on a consistent basis. He is a guy who can make a lot of plays."
SunDevilSource.com analysis (05/2016): There are some similarities between former ASU linebacker Chris Young and Thomas. Both are ideally suited to play the WILL position in ASU's defense but have the movement skills, instincts and playmaking ability to play the Spur position and be exposed to more open spaces. Like Young, Thomas has a very good feel for the game, with play diagnostic skills that belie his age.
Thomas is patient enough to allow the extra split second to let a play concept reveal itself before reacting, rather than prematurely commit to the fake, and when he does commit, he has a cat-quick pursuit reaction and approach that is very smooth and yet potent. A stout, low-center-of-gravity linebacker, Thomas plays with good leverage, is a technical tackler for his age and completes the play. He also makes extended arm and grip strength tackles that are challenging and generally has a knack for bringing down the ball carrier.
Thomas isn't ideally built for coverage in wide swaths of the field but he's able to run with running backs and tight ends and tends to pick up assignments quickly in the passing game. He's got decent physicality in the gap and is a pretty decent blitzer. Added strength and potency with moving bodies around and being a physical presence on the field are areas in which Thomas will continue to grow and develop. He has a young looking face and is still growing into his physique.
Projected depth chart status: Right now Thomas looks like the No. 4 inside linebacker, behind starters Salamo Fiso and Christian Sam and also junior D.J. Calhoun. That might make playing time tough to come by just due to the talent in the group, unless there are injuries. ASU wouldn't be making a mistake, in our opinion, to look at using Calhoun and/or Thomas in a SPUR role, particularly against pro style offenses.