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 Jarvis Baxter (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Marquise Overton (No. 98) 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, 199 pounds)
75 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 3 PBUs
What happened last year: In a little less than a year, Thomas went from potential depth chart casualty late in his sophomore season to nearly indispensable midway through his junior year at Oklahoma. His growth is really still amazing: Growing up as a leader, as a player and as a person. Thomas became the prototypical free safety that allowed the engine of Oklahoma’s defense to run. Before last year, he was more of a worry than a strength. He’s now one of the leaders on the defense.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 8. Big, game-changing plays won’t be needed from Thomas this year. There are other players on the defense that can do that – although far fewer than last season. Oklahoma needs Thomas to be a constant leader, and a player who doesn’t make too many mistakes and makes up for other players that do. Thomas’ talent is good enough to be just that. Oklahoma can’t lose Thomas, just like a few other players on the defense, to injury or lack of production. Thomas needs to be a safety net once again.
Best-case scenario for this season: Another year on the development curve from last year could make Thomas a possible early-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. But growth like what we saw last year isn’t realistic. Thomas would be a first-team All Big 12 safety and an All-American if that curve continued. Instead, a replication of last year’s success would be a fine season for the senior in his third year as a starter. Do that and Thomas would be a potential third-day draft pick next April. A third 75-tackle season is well within reach, but Thomas’ true success isn’t necessarily statistical. His quality will be in denying opponents and allowing his teammates to make more plays.