Notre Dame signed David Adams. It landed Matt Bauer. Now it’s tracking Drake Thomas.
That could be the succession plan at Mike linebacker for defensive coordinator Mike Elko, with Thomas a potential top target in the ’19 cycle. The product of Wake Forest (N.C.) Heritage High School posted 120 tackles (81 solo), five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and scored three touchdowns as a sophomore.
Notre Dame took notice and could be working on an offer.
“Coach (Clark) Lea, the linebackers coach, he came by and said he may come by to see me again soon,” Thomas said. “He kind of just said that I’d be a really good fit there. He loves my film, loves the way I play and I have one of his favorite films he’s watched. He said I need to kind of hold in there, might take a little bit longer but he said (an offer) is going to come. The time is going to come.”
Thomas feels good about the Irish coaching staff thus far.
“I like (Lea) a lot,” Thomas said. “He seems to be very straight forward and honest and seems to care about the players as not just football players. He seems like he wants to see people succeed in life, not just football.”
Thomas comes from a football-first family. Both his father and his older brother have influenced his path to the gridiron, which began before he hit grade school.
“My dad played college (football) at Marshall,” Thomas said. “I’ve been playing since I was really little. My older brother was playing when he was five and I was three and I would go out there to all the practices and I would go out on the field and do all the drills with them. I officially started when I was five.
“Except for flag, since I was little, I always played linebacker.”
Thomas hopes to make South Bend part of his summer vacation.
“As of now, I haven’t really planned anything out, but I’ll probably go to some camps and I’ll probably take a few visits but I’m not sure where yet,” Thomas said. “(Notre Dame) is definitely a possibility for the summer, maybe next season for a game. I definitely want to visit, I’m not sure when yet.
“I was invited to the Irish Invasion camp, the two-day thing. I could possibly (attend). I just have to make sure I can and see if that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not sure if I can yet because I have some other camps scheduled already, the Under-Armour Camp and Ray Lewis Academy, so I just need to see if I’m available for those dates.”
For several reasons, the Irish are gaining steam with this middle linebacker.
“I have high interest in Notre Dame,” Thomas said. “It’s a great place to play football. It’s historic, they have a great football past, and it’s a great school. I definitely think it’s high on my list. But right now, I’m still open to everybody. I’m not trying to make my top schools right now. But, I am interested in Notre Dame.”
With a 4.1 GPA, Thomas has academics in mind when it comes to his recruitment.
“I think academics are the most important thing when deciding on a school, make sure it’s a good educational opportunity,” Thomas said. “Again, Notre Dame definitely qualifies in that part.”
But the Irish aren’t the only program taking notice.
Duke, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech have all already offered.
The SEC has started knocking on his door too.
“I have about six, seven Power 5 offers right now,” Thomas said. “Right now, I’m seeing a lot more interest from the big schools like Notre Dame, Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama. They’ve ben reaching out to my coaches and I’ve been in touch with some of them. It’s starting to pick up.”
Thomas looks forward to gaining a clear idea of what his future holds.
“In the next year, I think I want to try and figure out and narrow down colleges and where I want to go in terms of which colleges have an offer and everything.”
Heritage head coach Dewayne Washington believes Thomas has everything a college program needs.
“It seems like everyone is coming through the school looking at him this year,” Washington said. “First and foremost, he’s a very focused kid. Even in the ninth-grade, having the focus he had, I knew that he could play varsity. He obviously proved me right with that.”
“He’s the type of kid that has the yearning to get better, asking a lot of questions and he wants to always get everything right. I think he’s improving from a leadership perspective. He’s big, he’s fast, he strikes well, he has good lateral movement. I can’t say enough about him, to be honest. He’s a special player.”
Washington feels high-academic schools may have a leg up for now.
“The Stanfords of the world, the Notre Dames of the world, those schools are a little step ahead in some of those areas but I see the Ivy (League schools) will be out there for him as well. The high academic schools, I’m sure will be intriguing to him.”
Of course, the football part is there too.
“He pops off the tape,” Washington said. “He gives you everything he’s got, every play and that’s what you want.”