Thomas Becoming Bigger Part of Plans

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas safety Tramain Thomas didn't accomplish one of his offseason goals.

The sophomore, who played in a reserve role as a true freshman in 2008, was hoping to bulk up to 195 pounds by following a stringent workout regimen. Last Friday, Thomas admitted he only reached 183 pounds.

"I was eating more," Thomas said with a shrug. "I was coming in during the day, two or three times a day, getting supplements and stuff like that. Just trying to get that weight on. Unfortunately, it didn't happen as I wanted it."

But falling short of his targeted weight hasn't had much affect on his performance after two weeks of spring ball.

Thomas has been one of the Razorbacks' most improved defensive players after eight practices. He has been complimented for his sure-handed tackling and credited for his ability to deliver some big hits. He has even managed to turn in a handful of big plays in Arkansas' scrimmages.

For instance, Thomas read quarterback Tyler Wilson late in the Razorbacks' 165-play scrimmage last Saturday and intercepted a pass to kill a drive. It wasn't a great day overall for the defense, but defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said he noticed Thomas — in a good way.

"Tramain Thomas is still the guy that seems to pop out at you," Robinson said. "The flash is on him."

It's much different than 2008, when Thomas played in 12 games — with one start — as a reserve cornerback. His biggest claim to fame was wearing a memorable number.

The Winnie, Texas, native was issued No. 5 when he arrived on campus. It didn't take long for him to realize it was the same jersey number Darren McFadden had worn.

Thomas said he was asked about the number repeatedly last year. The questions have all but disappeared now.

Instead, Thomas is being looked at as a potential solution in Arkansas' problems in the secondary. He is working with the second-team defense behind senior Matt Harris at free safety, but is making a case for a starting job.

"Tramain has done a great job," Robinson said. "His first scrimmage he had four or five tackles, but he made a lot of big hits, too. He made a lot of plays on the ball. In (last) Wednesday's scrimmage, he didn't have any missed tackles. ... He's continuing to grow and he's pushing the young man that's in front of him."

Thomas believes he's much more capable of earning that kind of role after his experiences as a freshman.

"Last year was really kind of just learning the whole defense and learning how to be a leader by some of the older guys," Thomas said. "Just learning the college game. This year I'm ready to step up and take that role."

There's still plenty to accomplish before the Razorbacks are ready to name him their starter at free safety, though.

Robinson said the youngster is still learning the nuances of playing free safety. Especially in coverage. Arkansas' secondary was beaten for several big plays last Saturday.

Thomas is still working on gaining weight, too. After wrapping up Friday's practice, he was planning to eat "two or three" plates at dinner. He was going to put down even more food a few hours later before he went to sleep.

He didn't reach his weight goal over the winter, but will use this spring and summer to get bigger and stronger.

"That's the goal every day," Thomas said. "I want to get to 195, 190. I'm going to get there sooner or later."

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