During the next two months leading up to the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Sooners Illustrated will breakdown the Oklahoma Sooners’ roster, starting with Dominique Alexander (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Dwayne Orso (No. 99) and the incoming freshmen.
We’ll look at last year’s performance, the best-case scenario for this season – without projecting injuries – and what each player means to the short-term or long-term success of the Sooners.
No. 13 – S Ahmad Thomas (6-foot-0, 218 pounds)
75 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 PBUs
What happened last year: Thomas’ first season as the Sooners’ starting free safety went about as expected. He can sure lay a hit, but there were times when he seemed to really struggle in pass coverage. It was his first season as starter, and that was bound to be problem. There’s still plenty of room for improvement in Thomas’ game, but there’s still a lot to like thus far.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 6. The loud thunder clamp that echoes from Owen Field or the surrounding practice areas is usually the result of Thomas laying another heavy hit. He’ll need to keep doing that but quickly develop the other part of his game. Thomas and fellow safety Hatari Byrd need to have a good camp because they’ll be challenged very quickly by what Bob Stoops called the “best safety class” he’s ever had at Oklahoma. This year, the Sooners need Thomas to find his form in his third season. He’s the most experienced safety on the roster and the second-most experienced defensive back behind Zack Sanchez. Thomas was still young last year. Oklahoma needs him to be a leader in some way this season.
Best-case scenario for this season: Thomas puts it all together, excelling in pass coverage thanks to the joining of all defensive backs into one meeting room. Good free safety play would allow everything else to happen in front of him. Thomas can allow the Sooners’ defense to do just about anything in front of him. He just has to be better than he was last year. If Thomas can repeat a 75-tackle season again, but this time without the necessity of making tackles because of blown coverage, then Oklahoma will have found its three-year starter at free safety. Otherwise, Oklahoma will turn to a true freshman.