Individual Decision

James "J.T." Thomas had a lot of external influences around him during the recruiting process, but he didn't let any of them exert a great deal of influence on his college choice.

Thomas, whose father was a standout linebacker at West Virginia in 1994 and 1995, wasn't just hearing about his father's legacy when considering his choices for college. Also weighing in was Florida assistant coach John "Doc" Holliday, who recruited the elder Thomas to WVU when he was an assistant coach in Morgantown. With all those outside influences, it might stand to reason that Thomas would be listening to a lot of different voices as he made his decision, but that ended up not being the case.

"None of that really played a big role in my decision," Thomas told BlueGoldNews.com after committing to West Virginia. "It was good to have all of that experience around me, but I went with the situation that was best for me. I went with my gut instinct, and that was that West Virginia was the best place for me.

"WVU has been recruiting me since day one," Thomas said. "Ever since the ninth grade, when I was going to camps up there, they told me that one day I would be at West Virginia."

The elder Thomas did play one role in his son's decision, but that was one that emphasized his non-involvement.

"After I decided, I talked with my dad, and he made sure that the decision was made for me," said the younger Thomas. "He wanted to make sure that I wasn't doing it for him, or just following him along."

Of course, Mountaineer fans are ecstatic that Thomas is following in his father's footsteps. J.T. senior was a major player on WVU's defenses in the mid 90s, and kept the tradition of strong linebacker play that was the hallmark of Don Nehlen's teams going strong. Two decades later, the next generation is ready to match his father's achievements.

"I can play any of five spots in their 3-3-5 defense," said Thomas, displaying good knowledge of West Virginia's current scheme. "I know I can succeed anywhere, but I do like playing linebacker. I'm playing on the strong side in high school, so I'm involved in a lot of plays, but I'm fast enough to play on the weak side too."

With Thomas' verbal, West Virginia now has three excellent linebacker candidates in this year's class, but don't expect his commitment to be the last one at that spot. The versatility displayed by Thomas gives WVU a great deal of flexibility in slotting players into different positions on the defense, so it won't be a surprise to see more high school linebackers in the Mountaineers' class of 2006.

Thomas displayed all of the qualities that coaches look for in playmaking defenders earlier this year, when he recorded two sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and six tackles in one game.

NOTES

  • Thomas plans to major in mechanical engineering, and got a chance to meet the dean of WVU's engineering school during his time in Morgantown. West Virginia's strong engineering program was also a factor in his decision.

  • Thomas has scheduled an official visit for the WVU-Pitt game. Although he said his verbal commitment is strong, he indicated that he might take official visits to Mississippi and Florida.

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