RECRUITING UPDATE: John Thomas
Airline TE gives LSU mammoth commitment
Most coaches like to throw around comparisons.
Their running back always seems to make cuts and jukes like Barry Sanders.
Their quarterback almost always has quick feet and running ability like Cam Newton, or the acute arm strength of Brett Favre.
And their safety is always a ball hawk like Ed Reed or their linebacker a defensive quarterback like Brian Urlacher.
Airline High School assistant coach Brian Garrett admits he’s usually one of those guys throwing around the same clichéd comparisons.
But not when tight end John Thomas is involved.
When he’s in the conversation, there’s no comparison - he’s unlike any player this coach has ever seen.
That’s good news for LSU as the 6-foot-6-inch and 250-pound tight end verbally committed to the Tigers recently, joining John Curtis High School tight end Dillon Gordon, who committed in the winter.
“I’ve never had a kid like this,” Garrett said. “In all honesty, I’ve coached kids that are at LSU right now and I’ve coached kids that were there before and John doesn’t remind me of any of the kids that I’ve coached. He’s that kind of player. He’s that special.”
What makes the tight end stand out, according to Garrett is size - mammoth size.
The 6-foot-6-inch frame is one thing. But the assistant coach said it’s the 250 pounds that are quite another. Garrett said the tight end missed most of the team’s spring weightlifting because of his obligations to the school’s basketball team.
Because of that, Garrett believes Airline and LSU will both see a newly chiseled product now and into the future.
“He’s only been in the weight room about a month after coming back from basketball,” Garrett said. “But he’s a very hard worker. He does everything you ask him to do - he almost has that gentle giant type of feel to him. … With the weight training we’ll give him the rest of his time here and the program he’ll be on down there, you’re looking at a guy that can easily be 265 or 270. He still hasn’t filled out his body just yet.”
For LSU, Thomas will be a tight end - the position he’s played the first few years of his prep career.
But with a new coaching staff in place that will run a primarily four wide receiver offense, Garrett said Thomas will spend some time in the slot this year.
He won’t exactly be a fish completely out of water, having already clocked a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash.
“That’s the thing with him - he can run,” Garrett said. “We clocked him at a 4.77, so for a kid that size, that’s pretty impressive. … But we’re going to the four-wide, no huddle and spread out attack. He’s going to go into the slot for us and we’re more than comfortable he’ll be able to play there and be effective. We’ll move him inside some, but it won’t be as much as he has been in years past.”
He has hands, too, catching 30 passes for 575 yards and seven touchdowns on Airline’s team last year, which advanced to the Class 5A state playoffs.
“You can create some real mismatches with him,” Garrett said. “You put him on the slot and match him up on a little small safety or linebacker - that’s a real problem for a defense. … He does everything a lot better than what you expect of him. He moves a lot better than what you expect. His feet are very smooth and he catches the ball very well when it’s thrown to him.”
Thomas chose LSU after fielding scholarship offers from Arizona, Missouri, Texas A&M, while also receiving interest from Mississippi State.
Garrett said he didn’t sit in on any meetings between Thomas and LSU coach Les Miles, so he wouldn’t go out on a limb and guess at the things the Tigers like about the Airline prospect.
But he did share what Thomas liked about LSU and what ultimately led to his commitment several months before the start of his senior season.
“I think the thing he liked the most about LSU was the family atmosphere,” Garrett said. “When he went down there two weeks ago, the players came out and introduced themselves and talked to him and they really made him feel at home. And the coaches did also. They did a great job of talking to him and making him feel at home with their team.”
Who knows - once the tables are turned in a few years, someday Thomas may be introducing himself to a potential recruit as an LSU All-American.
Garrett said Thomas is a player who has that potential plastered across his skill set.
“I’m telling you, if he gets down there and works, who knows how far he might go?” the coach wondered aloud. “He’s got a great work ethic and a great demeanor and I can tell you - he’s going to be all right. Because in all honesty, I don’t think he knows how good he can be just yet.”