Thomas' versatility vital for OU

A lot of young names will have to step up for Oklahoma in 2014, and sophomore Ahmad Thomas seems ready for the challenge.

You could never pigeonhole former Oklahoma player Trey Millard into one position. Fullback, H-back, tight end – he could play them all.

He truly was a jack-of-all-trades for the Sooners during his time in Norman. Looking ahead, and it feels like OU could be on the verge of another player in the mold of that. Except this time, it could be coming on defense.

Sophomore Ahmad Thomas saw limited time on defense last season but was a common face on the special teams unit.

As spring progresses, it's getting tough to decipher what his true position is going to be. Playing safety, nickelback and linebacker, Thomas is already showing his versatility.

"Ahmad becomes our nickelback, and he can do a lot of different things," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "We're trying to get our best 11 on the field always, no matter what the situation is."

Thomas, originally from Miami, was able to get a leg up on all the other defensive backs for the 2013 class because he enrolled early. As the bevy of backs reached Norman in the summer, Thomas already had one full spring under his belt.

His numbers don't stand out. He registered nine tackles and had one for loss. But when he was on the field, it was clear he knew his assignments and wasn't overwhelmed by the task.

Learning from former OU leaders like Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin certainly paid the dividends for Thomas heading into this spring.

"Getting to come and learn ahead of people – that's going to get you a better opportunity for a starting job," Thomas said. "But there were a lot of really good people ahead of me."

Maybe that was the case in 2013, but it's not entering this season. Thomas, if he continues to do what he has been doing, will find his way onto the field to start the 2014 campaign.

Thomas and Eric Striker have been exploring playing the nickel spot with Julian Wilson out for the spring after shoulder surgery.

But another position he might be primed to take over is the safety spot vacated by Lynn and that should start this week.

"We have a little bit of a three-man rotation," Stoops said. "We give Ahmad an opportunity to get play over there, too, and compete with him when we get back. Ahmad can play, the rest of our safeties are interchangeable pieces.

"He's a guy that can do a lot of different things. As a young player, you don't want to throw too much at them, too fast. But I think Ahmad has a good feel for his position, and we can start moving him around."

Stoops might see improvement in Thomas' game, but the sophomore doesn't really see it. Not because he isn't better but because his confidence was high to begin with coming into the spring.

"I just play," Thomas said. "When I first got here, I had problem with my covering. But working one-on-ones all the time – you get better at it. You watch film and see what you're doing wrong and then you fix it the next day at practice."

His teammates know what he can do. Striker said sophomore Hatari Byrd has stepped up a lot since the end of last season. He never mentioned Thomas, but it was for a different reason than you might think.

Byrd is making the leap now. Thomas, said Striker, was already there.

"Ahmad has always been pretty good," Striker said.

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