Enter Dorman offensive lineman Brandon Thomas.
Simply put, Thomas should provide more than mere depth as he has starter written all over him. And of course, like clockwork, one can count on the state of South Carolina producing three to four quality offensive linemen every year. This past year, the Tigers went out and landed the two best instate in J.K. Jay and Thomas. While Jay is already making waves on campus and is firmly in the mix for not only playing time, but potentially starting at right tackle, the staff is looking for big things out of Thomas as well. Though he may not make the same immediate impact, Thomas is a potential two- to three-year starter waiting blossom.
A tremendous athlete, Thomas shows that there is more to being a good lineman than merely being big. Brandon was such a dominant athlete at the high school level that he spent most of his senior season playing tight end. This way, Dorman could take advantage of not only his massive frame and blocking skills by keeping him on the line, but also his freakish agility by utilizing him in the passing game. Thomas made several circus catches throughout the year and, needless to say, was an absolute juggernaut after the catch.
Brandon has good size for on offensive lineman. While perhaps not ideal for a tackle as he is lacking a couple of inches both in height and reach, he could certainly play comfortably there. In addition, he is also nicely built to play inside at either guard position. He has a very good frame that is still quite lean and lithe. Though he already carries 280 lbs., he looks slender and should be able to carry another 30 without it impacting his alacrity or agility. He looks the part of an ideal spread offense type blocker: athletic, quick, lean in build and able to carry the necessary weight to be in effective blocker both at the point of attack and when reaching the second level.
As previously mentioned, Brandon's raw athletic ability really sets him apart from other trenchmen. He shows tremendous range and is able to pull or trap block with surprising suddenness. Furthermore, his natural nimbleness facilitates him to be an effective blocker in space as he can not only reach the safety or backer in time, but is able to shadow their movements and maintain solid contact throughout the play. As Clemson's offensive identity shifts to more of a spread look, expect to see Thomas pulling and leading the way for runs and quick passes or screens.
Thomas is one of the more unique linemen in the entire country for the 2009 cycle as he can literally play all five positions along the line. Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)
Unfortunately, Thomas suffered a torn ACL in the game against Byrnes and this will set him back some. While this will force him to redshirt, this may not be a bad thing. If there is any player in Clemson's 2009 recruiting class that could benefit from a redshirt, it would be Brandon. He needs a lot of work on strength and technique; both things he can pick up during his redshirt year. While he played well at times, like most high school linemen, he tends to stand up too high and reach. In addition, his time at TE set him back a little in terms of development and coaching, but only nominally so. He needs improvement in both upper and lower body strength as he is still incredibly lean and is behind in terms of sheer mass compared to most other graduating offensive linemen. A firm dedication to muscle beach would do him wonders.
MY PERSONAL RATING: Middle-range four star. Thomas is all about potential and he has a world of it. He needs a ton of work in both the weight room department as well as the technical aspects along the line. However, his pure athleticism and frame in combination with flashes of what he is capable of during camps and drills have OT/TE Coach Pearman OG/C Coach Scott fighting over him already. If he can take advantage of his redshirt year and make the necessary gains, look for Thomas to make a strong push at a two deep spot. While his highest ceiling may be at guard, he should get strong consideration at tackle as well due to depth concerns.