There's possibly nobody enjoying Arkansas' spring practice more than junior college transfer Robert Thomas.
The former Muskogee (OK) High star signed with Arkansas in 2009 and 2011, but had to matriculate to Coffeyville (KN) Community College in between to shore up his academics.
As he went onto the field Wednesday and came off of it after the fifth of the spring's allotted 15 practices, defensive tackle Thomas (6-1, 330) did so with a smile.
"I have been waiting for this a long time," Thomas said. "I'm glad I am here and I am hoping to make a big impact. I want to be the best teammate I can be and have a role in making our defense a great one."
Thomas has taken in many Arkansas practices and games over the past two years, but is happy that he graduated in three semesters at Coffeyville and is getting to participate in the workouts himself now.
"It was a blessing to finally be able to get back here," Thomas said. "I just want to come down here and ball out for the Razorbacks."
Arkansas defensive line coach Bobby Allen summed up the spring efforts of Thomas, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall and have three seasons to play for the Razorbacks.
"He has shown us that he is a very good athlete when he is fresh," Allen said. "When he goes, he's got a pretty good motor. He is a work in progress. He is trying to pick up his assignments. He was better today than yesterday and that is what I am looking for – to see him make gradual improvement each day and for him to get into the notebook and understand that when he comes out here we are expecting him to play like a three-year lineman."
Thomas feels like his stay at the Coffeyville helped him grow as a man, a student and a player.
"I think it humbled me a lot," Thomas said. "I now know that school comes first before anything. On the field, it helps me a lot because I play a lot more chilled and I am learning my assignments a lot better."
Thomas said the toughest part at Arkansas so far is just getting into the playbook and learning it.
"I have to stay in the playbook," Thomas said. "…I am adjusting pretty good, but I have to learn my playbook. I think I ought to be ready and know everything by next week."
Thomas is fitting in with a defensive line that is missing the injured Byran Jones, but still stocked with talent.
"I think we are going along great," Thomas said. "With us being out there and having the chance to be together, we are making a big step and coming this fall we are going to be a great defense."
Thomas thought the defense had a good day Wednesday after a not-so-good one on Tuesday.
"I think everybody stepped up today," Thomas said. "I think we came out and were a little bit more intense. Practice went well after that."
Robinson is getting used to what Allen and defensive coordinator Willy Robinson are asking of him.
"It has been an adjustment, but at the end of the day I have to be a player that makes plays," Thomas said. "I just try to take all the coaching."
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