CORAL GABLES — Freshman defensive end Chad Thomas arrived at Miami with a lot of fanfare, being the lone five-star recruit of the 2014 class.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound standout from Booker T. Washington will be counted on to bolster a UM defensive line that’s badly in need of an infusion of talent. Thomas told CaneInsider that he already feels faster and has added good weight to his frame. “When I first came in, I weighed around 240 pounds. Coach Andreu Swasey has me around 260 pounds now. I also have my strength and speed up, and I feel like I have more power.”
Thomas totaled 71 stops and eight sacks last season, leading his team to state and national championships, and was named first-team All-State and second-team All-USA by USA TODAY. Even with senior Anthony Chickillo listed ahead of him on the depth chart, Thomas said his goal is to be the starter against Louisville. “It’s everybody’s goal to come in and be a starter. Chickillo is in front of me, but I’m pushing him to get better. I’m just working hard and acting like a starter. I’m a freshman, so there’s still a lot to learn. I’d like to get in more, but I have to wait my turn.”
The big, athletic playmaker mentioned his personal transition to college football hasn’t been problematic, a transition even the best of incoming freshmen prospects can struggle with. “The game is faster, but it makes me move faster. I can handle it,” Thomas said confidently. “I tell Coach [Ice] Harris everyday this is what we did in high school, it’s just turned up another level.”
Going into more detail, Thomas shared what he’s learned about college offensive linemen in his short time in Coral Gables. “They have the same tendencies as they do in high school, but they’re smarter. It takes me a little longer to figure out how I can beat them.”
Having his high school coach on the field with him makes Thomas feel more comfortable and at home at Miami. “I’m really happy he’s here. I got my coach coming over here blowing his whistle and screaming; I’m used to that voice. So I know I have to push harder because he’s watching me. And when I have a question, sometimes I just look at Coach Ice and I get an answer.”
The Hurricanes coaching staff is experimenting lining Thomas up at defensive tackle, a position he learned while at Booker T. Washington. “I’m very comfortable playing inside. My whole senior season I played tackle. I know to rush against a guard or center, or if I have to bounce back out to end, it’ll be easy for me,” he said. “I love moving around. It lets everyone know I’m versatile and the coaches don’t have to stick me at one position, so I can help my team out more.”
— Michael Bradley