#24 Lamarques Thomas
Position: Defensive Back
Hometown: Clinton, MS
Thoughts: Lamarques came into the program a few seasons ago as a big time get in the secondary, a guy they envisioned would be a three year contributor on defense and special teams. The challenge for coaching staffs out on the recruiting trail is to try and project when and where they will need bodies each and every season. Did a true freshman burst on the scene this year? Maybe he’s only a three year player and now they have to fill that spot. Has a guy you thought would contribute from Day 1 still not panned out three years in? You need to fill his spot yesterday, so waiting another year or two will lose you games and get you fired. The third scenario in all of this roster turnover is of course, injuries. When Thomas joined the program his presence was needed much quicker than any coach could have predicted as the “secondary sniper” a.k.a. the injury bug ran rampant late in 2016. Once everyone got healthy again Thomas slid back into a supplementary role on defense, as one would expect, but the young man certainly blossomed on special teams and last year became a real problem for opposing return teams.
Lamarques was only accredited with 9 tackles last year, but he was disrupting punt and kick returns on a weekly basis. Pick a game, any game, and you are bound to see Thomas busting off the line, beating his man, and getting to the return man before almost anyone else. His presence alone often forced the returner to make a cut or move three to five yards laterally before he wanted too, slowing him down and allowing someone else to clean up the mess. Thomas was literally disrupting folks from Game 1….
…all the way through Game 13….
In fact, one could argue his best performance all year was in the bowl game. Not only did he grab two tackles on kickoffs but also dropped in a gem on a punt return as well. For those who don’t get excited about special teams maybe watch this one below three or four times. First things first, Mason absolutely bombs a 60 yarder getting the return man reeling but if we go back to the line, watch Lamarques up top shake his man off the LOS, burn past him, look up for the ball, never hesitate once he sees the muff, knock the man out of the way, snatch the ball with one hand, and then hold onto it....all at full speed.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say there are only a handful of guys on the enture roster who can make this play. The combination of shiftiness, speed, and toughness is something special teams coaches droll over and LT has all three.
While it would crush a small piece of me to see Thomas get fewer reps on special teams that may be where we are heading in 2018. The two transfers are getting the press as they are in the mix as projected starters a little over three weeks out, but Thomas has earned the chance to get in that rotation in nickel and dime packages and I think he will take full advantage. LT appeared in a handful of games last season in the secondary and appeared to be more comfortable in the position than he was the year prior. Take the raw talent he had coming in, three years in the strength and conditioning program, and tack on three seasons of D-I coaching and you have a guy ready to bust out. Petrino mentioned him by name in the Spring as a guy who was improving daily, and I would be stunned if Thomas isn’t another guy we see out there every single week in the young but very athletic secondary.
If you thought the Cards coming out of an inflatable tunnel was cool (zero hands raised) then the new entrance should be pretty incredible. For those who have may have missed it the expansion is getting REAL close to being wrapped up and the new entrance should be a drastic improvement over what fans are used to seeing. Check out a recent video showing some new views from the expansion.