The senior walk-on waited behind four-year starter A.J. Trapasso and outlasted redshirt freshman kicker Ben Buchanan for the starting spot. Thoma was listed ahead of Buchanan in Ohio State's Aug. 30 depth chart.
"I'm excited. I finally get to get on the field," Thoma said following the Aug. 19 kick scrimmage at Ohio Stadium. "I've been waiting a long time, and I'm ready to do it."
It's been a long journey for the Louisville (Ohio) St. Thomas Aquinas product. Thoma was a multi-sport star in high school, excelling in soccer and basketball before adding football as a senior. Thoma impressed in his only prep season on the gridiron, averaging 42.8 yards per punt and earning second-team all-state honors with the Knights.
The 6-2, 201-pound Thoma joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on in 2005 but took a redshirt. He moved into the No. 2 punter spot a year later, backing up then-sophomore Trapasso. He pushed Trapasso for the next two seasons and found his way on the field as the holder for placekicker, and roommate, Aaron Pettrey.
Thoma said he did not get discouraged waiting for his chance to move up the depth chart.
"What you learn when you're in that position is you have to get better every day," Thoma said. "You can't really think about when will my time come because then you'll be worried about the wrong things. I just wanted to get better to make my team better, make myself better. That's what I was concerned about."
Thoma has attempted only three punts as a Buckeye, including two last season in the Michigan game. He said has focused on improving while waiting for his opportunity.
"I'm a lot more consistent now," Thoma said. "Back then I'd just run out on the field and swing my leg. Now I know the mechanics of the punt. I'm ready to get out there and hit some good ones."
Consistency has continued to elude Thoma at times this August. He and Buchanan appeared to be neck-and-neck in their battle during fall camp. Both punters hit some good – and not-so-good – kicks in practices and scrimmages open to the media. Thoma had a slight edge during the crucial kick scrimmage, with six of his eight kicks going for more than 40 yards. He finished with a 40.1-yard average, 1 yard better than Buchanan, with a long of 52.
Despite outkicking his competition, Thoma was disappointed with the performance.
"It was one of those days where you warm up and everything goes right, and you expect it to go right," Thoma said. "Then you go out there and swing hard, but you don't make perfect contact with the ball. … I've been having really good practices. I feel like I'm ready."
Thoma apparently moved ahead of Buchanan following the kick scrimmage. Prior to Ohio State's Aug. 22 jersey scrimmage, the Buckeyes practiced a series of live punts. Thoma took all of the kicks, perhaps signaling his ascension to the starting punter spot.
Pettrey said he was excited for his five-year roommate.
"I'm more happy for him," he said. "I just hope he gets out there. I've got a lot of confidence that he'll do well. … He'll be a gamer for us and a big component for us."
In addition to his punting duties, Thoma will still hold for Pettrey. The snap-hold-kick trio of longer snapper Jake McQuaide, Thoma and Pettrey looked impressive during fall camp.
"We're very comfortable with the snap and hold," Thoma said. "We haven't had a mistake in as long as I can remember. That's become second nature, and on top of that we work every day."