The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

April 16, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: Thomas has sights on big senior year

(Continued)

MORGANTOWN —

He understands his role. He’s a senior, going to almost certainly be an All-Big East player or better.

He believes he is a leader of this defense.

He should be able to pull this off because he understands what leadership is.

“You just go out and do things right,” he said. “The guys pay attention. They know who is working.”

Thomas is almost certain to move forward after this year, to take that next big step. You look at him standing there after practice, helmet and shirt and shoulder pads off. His body is chiseled, strong yet lithe.

He bubbles over with enthusiasm for the game, the team and for himself, not in a cocky way at all, but in a confident way.

He isn’t talking about the NFL just yet. He’s talking WVU.

“Nothing less than winning every game will satisfy me,” he said. “Every week it’s the same goal — win a game. There’s nothing like singing ‘Country Roads’ after a win.”

If WVU wins, Thomas will have a big hand in it.

Last year, during the Gator Bowl, we noted that we didn’t know what J.T. stood for but “Jarring Tackles” is what he’s known for. He’s fast and he’s savage against the run and on the pass rush.

Now more is being added.

“He has speed and explosion,” defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel noted. “But it seems he has gotten better in coverage in the last six days than he had in the first four years.”

That could just make him one of the nation’s top linebackers, but to get recognition he will have to be one of the nation’s top linebackers on one of the nation’s top defenses. If the Mountaineers can develop some depth at cornerback and if Pat Lazear and Branko Busick can handle middle linebacker, that just might be the case.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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