Thomas Hoping To Flash This Season

After being touted as one of the most explosive members of the class of 2008, Lamaar Thomas struggled to find consistent playing time as a true freshman last season. Now a year wiser, find out what was tough about Thomas' transition to Ohio State and why he feels this year could be different.

Until he set foot on campus at Ohio State, Lamaar Thomas had primarily made his living on the football field as a running back. That all changed when Thomas enrolled for summer classes in Columbus and assumed his new role at wide receiver for the Buckeyes.

One year, four catches and 16 kick returns later, the player teammates call "Flash" is hoping to become a more impactful and consistent player.

"I hope I can contribute to the team more than I did last year," he said. "Last year I just played special teams and kick return. Hopefully this year I can play a little more and make some plays and make some things happen for the Buckeyes."

Rated as the nation's No. 10 running back in the country after a career that saw him accumulate 2,623 rushing yards at Ft. Washington (Md.) Friendly, Thomas selected the Buckeyes over Illinois and Maryland even though it meant undergoing a conversion to wide receiver.

Not only that, but it meant learning how to play in the slot – a position that requires even more intelligence.

"There's so much stuff going on that if you don't know what you're doing it's hard to play fast," junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "The more understanding he gets and the more he got done this summer the faster he'll play."

The ability to play fast, as Sanzenbacher put it, is part of what made Thomas a prized recruit. As a track standout, he brought home state titles in the 55- and 100-meter dashes and was reportedly timed at 10.30 seconds in the latter.

It was that pure speed that helped attract the Buckeyes to Thomas. It also helped them decide to put him on a struggling kick return unit midway through the season, and he finished the year with a team-high average of 21.6 yards per return.

But he never firmly grabbed hold of a spot as a wide receiver as he worked to learn the demands of his position, catching passes in just three games.

Thomas did get a crash course at wide receiver as a senior, and he ended his prep career with 1,209 career receiving yards. He is listed as a wide receiver/running back in the 2008 OSU media guide.

Now a sophomore, Thomas is one of a handful of young wide receivers hoping to break into the lineup this year and carve out a more consistent role. Wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said he feels Thomas is starting to get a grasp of what his role calls for on the team.

"Lamaar has made such a big transition from this time last year," Hazell said. "He looks like a receiver now. He's put in a lot of work. It's very important to him. He's got a great ability with the ball in his hands, and he's still trying to figure out coverages and separation and those types of things, but I really like where he is right now."

Thomas said it was often frustrating last season, but not frustrating enough to wish he was lining up at tailback for the Terrapins or the Fighting Illini.

"I wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was, but I had to get through it, learn from my mistakes and continue on," he said. "I'm always a competitive guy so I'm always up to the challenge. Once I realized it was a challenge it just made me want to work harder and make sure I got better at what I was doing.

"There was never a time where I felt maybe I should have gone somewhere else. It just made me want to work harder."

Hazell said the coaches knew they were putting a lot on Thomas' plate but that he would eventually have to learn the concepts.

"Me playing running back, I didn't really know anything about any kind of receiving things," Thomas said. "Once I became a receiver I had to learn coverages and be precise with the things I did and certain things I have to block. Once I started playing receiver, it was like, ‘Woah, there's a lot of stuff I've got to know.'

"Playing the slot makes it worse."

The coaches spoke of using Thomas' speed last season on reverses and similar plays last season, but Hazell said that might not be the case this season.

"He's that kind of a guy who can do that, but I think we've got some really good weapons in the backfield with (Brandon) Saine and some other guys who are that type of athlete," the coach said. "Right now we're concentrating with him out there as a flanker to the field and a slot and see how he develops there."

Thomas did not record a carry last season, while wideouts Brian Hartline and Ray Small combined for four carries for 16 yards. Thomas said he has heard rumors about getting a few carries this fall but said he is more focused on developing as a wide receiver.

Doing so could go a long way toward helping the OSU offense.

"I'm hoping we can get together and make big plays, make things happen for Terrelle," Thomas said of the wide receiver corps. "We know Terrelle likes to run around and hopefully that opens up things for us. Hopefully we can run around and get open ourselves and make big plays. I hope we can be a receiver corps that makes big plays."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories