Recruit Notebook - Matthew Thomas

Recruit Notebook - Matthew Thomas

Canes fans, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

Today’s installment of the Recruit Notebook, we look at a player who is arguably the top priority for this entire class: Miami Booker T. Washington LB Matthew Thomas

Part 1: Matthew Thomas, the player
Known simply by his jersey number, 6, Matthew Thomas is an explosive defender who can disrupt offenses even in the face of double teams. He is an elite defender whose production is matched only by his versatility.

Measurables
Thomas is a tall and lean player, standing 6’4” and 210lbs. He has been timed at 4.59 in the 40, more than adequate speed for a linebacker, and showcases great short area quickness. Thomas is a strong player who can physically dominate larger linemen at times, and does well to fight off blocks. Thomas figures to get even bigger as he advances to college, as his frame could easily support another 25-30lbs without sacrificing any of his athleticism.

Thomas has repeatedly said in interviews that he “loves to hit” and that much is very true as soon as you watch him play. Thomas is an impressive looking athlete, but he does more than look the part. He uses all of his physical gifts to constantly impact the game.

Tackling/Run Support
Thomas is a great read and react defender. He seems to love coming forward to fill the hole, and will routinely fight off of blocks to get to the ball carrier. Thomas displays good form on his tackling, driving through the ball carrier and wrapping up.

Thomas is a very disciplined as a tackler, and only goes for strips when the runner is solidly in his grasp, or the grasp of other teammates. Thomas often finds himself near the football, which is something that allows him to impact the game on many plays.

Thomas doesn’t usually deliver “knockout” shots, but he tackles with great strength. Thomas is adept at stopping ball carriers, and will stand them up at the point of impact. As he grows stronger, he will force more of them backwards, and inhibit their ability to fall forward for extra yardage.

Coverage
This is an area of the game where Thomas showcases remarkable skill and incredible performance. For a player who routinely makes tackles behind the line of scrimmage, Thomas is simply not supposed to be as good a coverage player as he is.

Thomas has fluid hips, which enables him to turn and run in coverage easily. He understands his role in pass coverage, and can impact multiple routes/passing windows with his leaping ability and long arms. He runs well, and can keep up with most RBs and TEs in coverage. While Thomas’ interception numbers are low, I think that he has the capabilities to add this to his vast arsenal of skills.

Thomas shows good performance in both man to man and zone coverage. He has a level of comfort in space that is not usually seen by players his size. His coverage skills are very advanced for his position, and enables him to be a 3 down defensive player.

Thomas shows good discipline in his coverage assignments, and also closes on the ball quickly. His hand/body placement technique when defending passes is spectacular, and needs little to no re-teaching or maintenance. In short, Thomas is very polished as a pass defender.

Pass Rushing
Thomas is usually moved down to Defensive End in obvious passing situations, in addition to select other times throughout games. When at this position, Thomas shows a quick first step, and nice burst out of his stance. He uses his hands well, but would need to advance in his technique against more experienced linemen.

If a lineman can get ahold of him, his initial rush is usually shut down. Problem for offenses is that most linemen can’t do anything more than punch at him and hope he slips. Thomas doesn’t have many secondary moves, as this is not his primary position, but his relentless nature and non-stop motor allow him to make plays even if his initial rush attempt is thwarted.

Blitzing
Thomas doesn’t blitz too often, but he shows good timing when asked to do so. Most often, he sits in coverage from whichever Linebacker position he is assigned to on a given play, recognizes that the RB or TE he is covering is staying in to block, then comes on a hard, decisive delayed blitz.

Thomas is at a great advantage throughout the blitz progression, as lineman can’t deal with his athleticism as he gets to the line, and quarterbacks can’t escape him once he’s in the backfield. Thomas has all the physical skills to be a great blitzer, but I’m not sure about his instincts and timing when it comes to blitzing. His success/utilization in this area remains to be seen.

Positional Versatility
Over the course of his High School career, Thomas has played the following positions: DE, OLB, MLB, SS, TE, WR, H-Back, and FB. The sheer fact that he could play them all with nearly equal success should tell you everything you need to know about Thomas’ athleticism.

While I believe Thomas could be successful at any of these positions, his future is definitely on the defensive side of the ball. His coaches have freely rotated him between DE, OLB and MLB this year, and most of last. I think his skill set and style of play are best suited for Outside Linebacker at the next level, and that’s where I anticipate seeing him log most of his snaps.

Much conversation has been made about Mark D'Onofrio needed versatile defenders to make his system work. You don't need to look much further if that's what you're searching for. Thomas is about the best there is.

Part 2: Game Evaluation
While the statistics and narratives of Thomas’ skills are impressive, they pale in comparison to seeing him play the game live. Thomas has produced well on the field, ending each of the last 2 seasons with over 100 tackles and 10+ sacks. The exact numbers are hard to find, but trust me, the kid has made LOTS of plays.

Thomas is rarely out of position. He has very good instincts, and demonstrates good knowledge of opponent’s staple plays and tendencies. Thomas has the responsibility to know each position on the defense, because he lines up in so many different places. He seems confident in his assignments on every play, and uses that confidence to play hard and strong for the whole game.

Thomas frequently faces double teams, and opposing offenses have to account for him on ever snap of the game. Booker T. tries to disrupt schemes by moving Thomas between a number of positions, which I’ve already listed. Thomas’ presence on the field creates mismatches for his teammates, and allows for the defense to employ a variety of schemes, each with equal success.

Thomas takes good angles in pursuit, and can often be found yards down the field, chasing down ball carriers and making tackles. This relentless pursuit is a staple of Thomas’ game, and it is one of the things that has made him such a coveted defender. He refuses to quit on plays, even if a teammate is in position to make a play. He runs effortlessly from sideline to sideline, and is always around the ball.

Earlier, I talked about all the parts and pieces of Thomas’ game. Tackling/Run support. Coverage. Pass Rushing. The thing that makes Thomas so special is that he can switch between any of these deployments at any time, each with elite level performance.

More than anything else, Thomas passes the eye test. I saw him play a few times in the past 2 years (when Booker T. games didn’t conflict with Miramar games), and I was blown away by his aura on the field. The only way I can describe it is as follows: I tried to watch other players, watch the ball, watch something other than Thomas during a given play or drive. I always found myself looking back his way because he just jumps off the field. It’s almost like Pleasantville, where the world is in black, white, and grey, and analog, while Thomas is in vivid 3D Hi-Definition color. In short, he doesn’t look like everybody else on the field.

In a good way.

Thomas plays with a passion and precision that is rarely seen. He Is not a vocal leader, choosing to let his play do his talking. I understand that his team is rife with BCS level college talent, but make no mistake about it: Thomas is THE GUY who makes the Booker T. Washington defense work. From what I’ve seen from him, I see no reason to think that this won’t be the case for the foreseeable future.

Part 3: College Projection
Linebacker is a position that demands a lot from players. They have to be physical going forward against the run, quick and disciplined playing pass coverage, and intelligent enough to recognize what the offense is doing, all without getting suckered by play action. It’s not an easy position, which is why younger players at this position usually find themselves in a rotation or platoon situation.

However, Matthew Thomas isn’t most players.

Thomas is a rare talent, who can play in college from day 1. He’s kind of like the Swiss Army Knife of defenders. He can easily switch functions, and help out in a number of areas.
Perfectly suited for the WILL or Weakside linebacker position, Thomas can be tasked with man to man coverage on his side of the field, or “see ball, get ball” assignments with equal confidence. Over time, he could easily shift to the Strong side or Middle with the addition of size and functional strength to take on blockers. Still, I think Weakside is the best position for Thomas to play.

A player who Thomas compares to is Green Bay Packers OLB Clay Matthews. Both are multifaceted defenders who can cover as effectively as rush the passer. Obviously, comparing a high school player to a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is something that will raise some eyebrows, but I think Thomas can have that kind of impact.

Final Grades
Athleticism – A
Football IQ – B/B+
Tackling/Run Support – A-
Coverage skills – A+
Pass Rushing – B+
Fundamentals and Technique – A
Leadership/Maturity – B+
Physical development – A
Versatility – A++
Potential – A++++

Overall Recruit Grade – A+++++
Thomas is priority number 1 or 1a in this class, depending on your feelings about Alex Collins, who I profiled yesterday. Miami has a lot of returning talent at linebacker (Thurston Armbrister, Eddie Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Gionni Paul, and others), but Thomas is has the talent to be an impact player from day 1, should he choose to come to The U.

As a prospect, Thomas has long been regarded as one of the top players in the class of 2013, and is a high 5 star player. He can not only play a role on any ream from day 1, but he can step in and be a game changer. I do not hesitate saying that because the track record of Thomas’ career supports this statement completely.

I heard a mentor say once that people who were destined for greatness were different than others. They were not made for the ground, but instead made to soar amongst the clouds. It is my belief, and I believe that of Al Golden and the entire Hurricanes coaching staff, that Matthew Thomas wasn’t made for the ground.

I only hope he chooses to soar amongst the clouds in a Hurricanes Jersey.

skyman

Senior
Joined
Nov 6, 2011
Messages
3,545
Having had the chance to watch Matt a few times, I cant disagree with any of this write up and thinks its your most spot on yet of the ones you have written.

Only thing of note is no Thurston or Paul have any say in what happens with Matt on the field if he comes to the canes, only Matt himself, he leaps those guys just by merely signing on the dotted line
 

NDE

Sophomore
Joined
Oct 27, 2012
Messages
598
Beautiful, very poetic. You sound like the best professonal scout. In a couple of years Highsmith needs to watch his ass. Excellent report. The internet has no comparison. Thanks
 

Cameron Underwood

Sophomore
Joined
Aug 3, 2012
Messages
624
Having had the chance to watch Matt a few times, I cant disagree with any of this write up and thinks its your most spot on yet of the ones you have written.

Only thing of note is no Thurston or Paul have any say in what happens with Matt on the field if he comes to the canes, only Matt himself, he leaps those guys just by merely signing on the dotted line
Thanks for the compliment. Glad you appreciate my work.

As it pertains to Armbrister and Paul, I just noted that they're on the roster. I said, and believe, if Thomas signs with The U, he plays on day 1. Not a question in my mind.
 

DMoney

D-Moni
Staff member
Joined
Oct 13, 2011
Messages
12,527
Beautiful. Love the Pleasantville reference. This is what this site is about.

You touched on something that surprised me when I watched Thomas against MNW-- his read-and-react ability is outstanding. Excellent summation of his tackling as well- he's not an explosive drive-though tackler, but he is wiry strong and will not let guys out of his grasp.
 

skyman

Senior
Joined
Nov 6, 2011
Messages
3,545
Pete, Cameron and the recruiting staff are looking at this 2013 NSD and playing this all day long

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wfqW5BgVwo
Its the truth, we just have to hope all the threads dont get ruined, I pop in the standish thread, somebody arguing about qb stats and star, smh leave. Go to the Stacy thread, guys arguing how they can analyze attitude from jogging in the clear for tds, and how long they have been apart of the interwebs, exit stage left. SMH
 

TheUnuffSAID

GreenTree All-American
Joined
Jan 25, 2012
Messages
6,362
Pete, Cameron and the recruiting staff are looking at this 2013 NSD and playing this all day long

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wfqW5BgVwo
Its the truth, we just have to hope all the threads dont get ruined, I pop in the standish thread, somebody arguing about qb stats and star, smh leave. Go to the Stacy thread, guys arguing how they can analyze attitude from jogging in the clear for tds, and how long they have been apart of the interwebs, exit stage left. SMH
Yes I agree but after years of training I now automatically skip those posts and spend zero time reading them I consider it a gift I guess
 

AllbouttheU

King Dingaling
Joined
Nov 2, 2011
Messages
6,962
Would he be a bigger "get" than Tracy and Duke last year?
I don't know if it beats Tracy, he was all Gatuh up til his official visit to us which was like a week or two before NSD IIRC.
 

TheUnuffSAID

GreenTree All-American
Joined
Jan 25, 2012
Messages
6,362
Would he be a bigger "get" than Tracy and Duke last year?
Duke...was that even a get...but for the tracy part IDk I think Tracy last year was so big because we heard Al was a good recruiter but he didn't have that big time high profile pull yet, well that answered questions.
 

Cameron Underwood

Sophomore
Joined
Aug 3, 2012
Messages
624
Would he be a bigger "get" than Tracy and Duke last year?
IDK about bigger, but on that level, yes.

And, I can confirm completely that Tracy Howard WAS GOING TO SIGN WITH FLORIDA until he took his official visit. He's told me as much personally, so that is not conjecture.
Getting 6 in this class is equally as "big" a get as pulling Tracy away from UF last year, IMO.
 

hasena75

Junior
Joined
Jan 16, 2012
Messages
1,615
With his read and react ability it seems as though both Grace and Thomas are "smart" linebackers who can analyze and dissect the play.
 

skyman

Senior
Joined
Nov 6, 2011
Messages
3,545
Would he be a bigger "get" than Tracy and Duke last year?
I wont say Bigger, but just the same. For a school like Miami to succeed you have to keep your elite talent home. No excuses. If you cant do that your program will not succeed. Guys are paid 6 and 7 figures for a reason. They have to figure out a way to make it work. I think the same impact Duke had on the Offense is the same that Matt can have on Defense.* (some would say without Duke we lose a couple games, yep. so you get the point) Everyone has players we need difference makers. If we cant get the ones 15 minutes from campus where can we get them from?

*Now Matt might not impact game 1 like Duke for the reason that he is still thin at a position that needs bulk but no doubt in my mind he can and will find a way to impact games in his first 2 years here.
 

Cameron Underwood

Sophomore
Joined
Aug 3, 2012
Messages
624
Really think he can play from day 1 at 210? How long you think it will take him to bulk up?
Yes, I think he can play from day 1. Look up his highlights. I have a feeling you'll feel the same.
 

2020 Commits

OT
6'6"
330
Orange Park, FL
WR
6'2"
190
Bradenton, FL
QB
6'4"
215
Glastonbury, CT
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5'10"
160
Miami, FL
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6'3"
290
Hollywood, FL
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5'11"
205
Miami, FL
DE
6'4"
240
Orange Park, FL
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265
Miami, FL
S
6'0"
185
Homestead, FL
C
6'3"
270
Ocala, FL

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