Tramain Thomas seemed to be quarterback Brandon Mitchell's favorite target in Arkansas' first-ever nationally televised Spring Game. Thomas, however, was part of the White team defense that held the Red team offense to just 97 first half yards and 275 total on the way to a 45-14 win.
The senior safety had two of Mitchell's three interceptions on the day to run his spring scrimmage total to four. In the two previous Saturday scrimmages, Thomas caught eyes with a one-handed interception in each scrimmage. During the spring game Thomas managed to get both hands on the ball, with one pick being off a deflected pass.
"He just reads the quarterback and knows the defense," Mitchell said. "He will show you something and then do something else, but can make up for it with his speed and athleticism and gets where he needs to on the field to make plays."
The Winnie, Texas, native is coming off a season in which he started all 13 games for the 10-3 Razorbacks in 2010. In Arkansas' April 2 scrimmage the starting strong safety unofficially recorded three tackles and a sack to go along with the left-handed interception defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said it may have not been the type of scrimmage Thomas would have liked to have.
"I think the scrimmage he was disappointed in the most was the first big scrimmage," Robinson said. "He had a lot of reps but didn't respond the way he should have."
In the team's second scrimmage Thomas unofficially recorded six tackles and a right-handed interception before having a team-high two interceptions to go along with two tackles during the spring game.
"During the last two scrimmages he has performed extremely well for us." Robinson said.
Although the 6-foot, 200 pound Thomas led the Razorbacks with four interceptions last season and has seven for his career, coach Bobby Petrino said he has made plenty of improvement this spring in preparation for next season.
"His ability to read the front shoulder of the quarterback is really showing up," Petrino said. "He is must faster than he had been. In the past year and a half he has really improved his speed, so he is getting to the football and catching when he gets there.
"I have been really impressed with his spring and he is definitely the leader of the secondary."
With Arkansas losing plenty of leaders off of last season's squad such as Ryan Mallett and DJ Williams, the Razorback coaching staff has been trying to identify new leaders for 2011. At the beginning of spring coach Petrino said although Thomas isn't a very vocal leader he does lead by example.
With the white team winning in dominant fashion over the red, senior defensive end Jake Bequette, part of the red team, said it was Thomas that set a tone for the white team's defensive performance.
"Tramain is a ballhawking safety," Bequette said. "He got two more (interceptions) today and that is just business as usual for him."
Thomas is part of an Arkansas secondary that returns three starters from last year's Sugar Bowl team. Arkansas did not have a member placed on the All-Southeastern Conference First Team Defense last season, but quarterback Brandon Mitchell said with the improvement Thomas has shown he has placed himself with the elite defenders.
"He is one of the best safeties in the country," Mitchell said. "He always makes plays.
Another Big Day for Thomas
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