The red-shirt junior joins sophomore sensation Marvin Austin, red-shirt freshman Tydreke Powell and juniors Aleric Mullins and Tavares Brown in the battle for playing time in the middle of the defensive line. Thomas and Austin have been working with the first unit in the early part of training camp, but the Eagle Springs, N.C. product claims that the depth chart is irrelevant for his unit.
"It really doesn't matter," said Thomas, who tallied 8 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack in 2007. "We're all competing every day. Everybody wants it… All meals must be finished."
Thomas had earned a starting position at the nose tackle spot heading into the 2007 campaign, but a high right ankle sprain in the season opener disrupted his plans for a dominant season, forcing him to miss five games.
"It affected me a lot," Thomas said. "I got hurt against James Madison, and then I was hurt for a couple of games. Basically, I'm a big boy and I love to eat, so I was gaining weight. And then when [the ankle] started to heal, it wasn't healing the way it was supposed to be because I was pounding on it and gaining weight, too. It was bad."
So how much weight did the 330-pounder gain?
"We're going to keep that under wraps," Thomas said, smiling.
You would expect a man of Cam's size to have incredible strength, and the red-shirt junior meets that description perfectly. Thomas power cleans 379 pounds, and is hoping to break former offensive lineman Jason Brown's school record of 416 pounds before he leaves Chapel Hill.
Thomas squats 711 pounds – three more than former defensive lineman Ryan Sims' DL record of 708 – but Brown's 760-pound mark is a stout task to overcome. Thomas described that number as "ridiculous, something that only a man child can do."
But having strength means little if you cannot maximize those abilities with a full workout regimen.
"Anybody can be strong," Thomas said. "You can be strong on the field, but if you don't have conditioning with it, then it's basically useless. With all that power and no conditioning, after two or three plays, you're done. So I really try to work on conditioning – I think I'm better conditioned this year than I have been in past years."
A common thread among the Tar Heels this preseason is that personal goals have been pushed to the side, and talk of team goals is more prevalent in post-practice interviews.
"I just want to do better than my past years," Thomas said. "I played and stuff, but I didn't come off like the player that I know I can be – the dominant ‘Hulk' that I can be. If we come out like one big fist, then nobody can stop us."
And what about the hype surrounding this program, culminating in the ACC media voting North Carolina to finish second in the conference's Coastal Division?
"It's not hype," Thomas said. "It's about to come true. That's not talk, it's about to be real. We're ready. We're practicing every day like we're ready. We're focused, and it's about to be the real deal."
Thomas is back to full health, and he's ready for his chance to get back on the field this fall and show the Tar Heel fan base what he had hoped to show them last season.
"I could do a backflip right now," Thomas said. "I'm not going to show you – I'll keep that under wraps, but I could do a backflip right now. I can't wait."