Coleman Thomas didn’t score two touchdowns against Bowling Green Saturday. Centers usually don’t do that sort of thing. But according to his head coach, the big man was the direct cause of two scores due to his pulling blocks in Tennessee’s 59-30 win over the Falcons in Nashville, and for that, Butch Jones is just as proud.
“His athletic ability and with him being able to pull and get out on the edge — whether it was blocking a corner or linebacker, he, at the point of attack, blocked for two of our touchdowns," Jones said. "He was directly responsible. I thought he managed the game in terms of calling out the fronts, getting us in the right blocking schemes. He's very athletic and he has some size. For him making his first career start at center, we thought he played really well."
You read that right.
The sophomore who grew up snapping the ball in Max Meadows, Virginia, never received a snap at center until this season. Last year, Thomas was forced to switch to right tackle as the Vols searched for a consistent starting five on the offensive line. Thomas was moved from his natural position of center, but after a year of freshman growing pains, he’s settled down where he feels most comfortable — in the middle of the line.
“I feel great there. Obviously you’re over the ball, so it’s great to get in that position and get back at it,” Thomas said. “I like being the quarterback of the offensive line. I like making calls and snapping. I don’t know, I guess through experience, it’s just my natural position.”
The 6-foot-6, 301-pounder flashed his athleticism early in Saturday’s contest, pulling around the left side to spring a key block for Jalen Hurd’s first touchdown run of the afternoon. That set the tone for the offensive line the rest of the game, even if Thomas didn’t realize how important his block was until the drive was finished.
“It was great. I didn’t realize I was the block,” he said. “When Jalen went to the sideline he told me ‘Good block’, so that’s when it really set in. It was great to watch on film.”
Running back Alvin Kamara was just as impressed. The new prized addition to Tennessee's backfield, who rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's win, took notice of Thomas' agility right away.
“Coleman’s almost faster than me,” the shifty running back joked Monday.
While Thomas and the rest of the world may disagree, Kamara’s confidence in his new center shows how natural the position comes to the sophomore offensive lineman.
“It’s great. That was a good compliment,” Thomas said. “I just try to make the blocks where we can get those guys in space and score some points.”
As another date with Oklahoma looms in the near distance, Thomas finds himself in a more desirable position. Last year, the sophomore was preparing for his first ever career start at a spot on the line he rarely ever played going up against All-American outside linebacker Eric Striker. This season the Virginia native is back at the position that serves his skill set best with a year of maturity and experience under his rather large belt.
“It was great to get that under my belt,” Thomas said. “They were obviously aggressive defense and up front. We’re just focused on taking it day-by-day, plugging the holes and getting better.”