Ohio State Buckeyes: Solomon Thomas

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: The Class of 2014 will go down as one of the wildest recruiting rides in recent memory. With so many players switching commitments and some elite prospects still left on the board, here are five things to keep an eye on heading into recruiting’s biggest day.

Does Bama have the best class ever?

Top 5 now a top 3 for ESPN 300 DE 

January, 20, 2014
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The father of ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) said two schools have been eliminated from contention as national signing day rapidly approaches.


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Well-rounded Thomas taking his time

January, 16, 2014
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This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) believes he’s found the formula for how to deal with college football recruiting.

Looking for the guy to stress about the process? Don’t look Thomas’ way. On Sunday, fresh off an official visit to Stanford, Thomas put priorities first.

He played a friendly game of 3-on-3 touch football with friends.

“I’m just doing my best not to let the process change me. I can’t let it define me,” said Thomas, a four-star defensive end with more than 30 offers. “I’m taking advantage of just being a kid right now.”

Thomas is the No. 25 player in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s fourth-ranked defensive end, but he’s also still an 18-year-old high school senior. He reminds himself of that as much as possible with games of touch football, a trip to the movies, a round or two of video games or an exciting game of "Fugitive," where he and friends literally make the entire city of Coppell the playing field with a lengthy game of tag.

For someone who is 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds, being labeled a “man-child” holds opposite-spectrum definitions. On the football field, he’s a man among boys. Away from the field, he’s a big kid -- and many times, the biggest kid.

“As a teen, he acts like he’s 18 going on 2,” said Chris Thomas, Solomon’s father. “And then there are some times where he’s 18 going on 65. He has an old soul about him.”

It’s that attitude that’s helped Thomas turn a potentially hectic recruiting process into one that hasn’t been completely bothersome. Rather than worrying about his future, Thomas lives for the now and enjoys life. Being a college athlete can wait, for the time being.

‘He’s doing it right’

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
John Albright/Icon SMISolomon Thomas had three tackles for loss in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, there were times when Thomas was poetry in motion. In practices, he seemed to be in on every play. In the game -- which his team won 28-6 in front of 40,017 fans -- he showed his ability off the end, finishing with three tackles for losses.

Nine players announced their college plans during the game. Thomas wasn’t one of them, as he said he wanted to take all of his official visits before making a decision. Thomas’ January itinerary included the visit to Stanford and will conclude with Arkansas the weekend of Jan. 24 and Ohio State the weekend of Jan. 31. Thomas visited UCLA last month.

Those four schools and Texas make up his top five, and all five mean something special to Thomas. Many believe Stanford is the team to beat, as Thomas has made several trips to Palo Alto. His official visit was highlighted by news that he was accepted into the university, news he had been patiently waiting to hear.

“It was relieving to hear that,” Thomas said. “I felt like all my hard work in the classroom had paid off. Taking four AP classes and taking the SAT six or seven times, [academics] is a grind, just like football is. But it made me a better student and made me challenge myself.”

Thomas, however, is adamant about keeping the other four schools at the forefront of his decision. Thomas won’t declare a favorite and is expected to have all five hats on a table for his announcement on national signing day Feb. 5.

Coppell coach Joe McBride said Thomas has kept his opinions about the schools relatively quiet. Rarely does Thomas comment on the schools by way of social media, as he understands that every word said can be featured on a message board.

“He doesn’t talk about it a lot, but I think he’s doing it right,” McBride said. “He’s doing his own research and at times will come to talk to me about my opinion on a couple of things. He’s done a really good job in asking coaches how they want to use him. He’s just a smart kid who is taking his time and asking all the right questions.”

Four pieces of recruiting advice

McBride said he gave Thomas four tidbits of recruiting advice when schools first began to reach out. He wanted Thomas to look for a program’s stability in a head coach; build a solid relationship with a position coach; ask about a program’s depth chart; and find out how he’ll be used in that program’s package.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsThomas is ranked No. 25 in the final ESPN 300.
“His coaches have been great with everything,” Chris Thomas said. “Solomon’s so grounded and focused on what his final goal is, and he’s been really organized in his decision-making. He’s listed key elements and other criteria for making a decision. He’s looking at location, the coaches, trainers, education . . . I’m not surprised he’s able to do it and be so levelheaded. That’s his personality.”

Thomas is a role model by nature, one who understands and appreciates hard work and its rewards. He’s a model student who also happens to play several sports recreationally -- basketball, tennis and sand volleyball -- because he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as just another football player.

And when it comes to good manners, it's almost always “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am." He’s a person who thinks about others first. One reason he chose to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl was to entertain the soldiers.

“It was a grind, but it was an honor and a blessing to be there,” Thomas said. “There’s so much tradition there, and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could for them. Overall, it made me better.”

In three weeks, Thomas will announce his verbal commitment, and one school will have a well-rounded individual who also happens to be a defensive juggernaut. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly and one that should be treated with the utmost care. Thomas gets it, even when in the recruiting world, taking your time often can be considered a bad idea.

“I want to be in a different category and do things my own way sometimes,” he said. “I just want to enjoy being a kid now. This is a big decision for me, so I know I need to take my time.

“I don’t want to rush it. I want to do it the right way.”
As we approach signing day, there are plenty of big targets left on the board for Big Ten teams.

Here is a look at some of the most important prospects left for each program.

Illinois
DL Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio/Winton Woods)
6-foot-3, 290 pounds
Four-star
Cage is a bit of a long shot for Illinois, but he would be a big get if the Illini can get him. Louisville was very much in the picture for Cage, but with coach Charlie Strong taking the Texas job, there might be opportunity to move in. Illinois will have to fight off Michigan State for the defensive tackle.


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Ohio State lost a 40-35 shootout to Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Buckeyes only had two losses on the season, but one prevented them from playing in the national championship game.

There are plenty of players leaving after this season, but Ohio State’s recruiting class will help fill a few holes.

Key losses: OL Jack Mewhort, OL Andrew Norwell, OL Corey Linsley, OL Marcus Hall, RB Carlos Hyde, RB Jordan Hall, WR Philly Brown, DB Corey Brown, DB C.J. Barnett, DB Bradley Roby, K Drew Basil.

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Army Bowl notebook: Decision time 

December, 30, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- Day 1 is in the books for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Here is Monday’s notebook featuring some of the nation’s top players:

Elam in his element; ready to choose UK or Bama

At 6-foot-6 and more than 350 pounds, ESPN 300 defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin) is a big man, and he’s used to being the bully on the football field.

Being at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, however, has made him appreciate football at the next level. What he’s heard all his life is true: The players are bigger, faster, stronger.

Or, as he was able to see firsthand during Monday’s first day of practice, a combination of all three.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 23, 2013
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There was plenty of recruiting action over the past week for the Big Ten Conference. With new offers, commitments and more, here is a look at the latest news.


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Big Ten signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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Signing day is only 50 days away and there are plenty of questions surrounding the big day. Big Ten programs still have a ton of top prospects on the board, which means there could be some impactful decisions coming in the near future.

Here is a look at some of the top storylines in the conference leading up to signing day.


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Team in transition: Ohio State 

November, 26, 2013
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Editor's note: New coaches inherit a blank slate and often, an empty house. But new coaches who take positions at schools rocked by scandal face special challenges. Here's a look at how Ohio State is rebounding from that situation.

Jim Tressel's tenure at Ohio State began to unravel when it was revealed some of his players received cash and tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Things turned for the worse when Tressel didn't bring the infractions to light when the NCAA questioned the allegations.

Ohio State received a one-year bowl ban and had its scholarship total trimmed from 85 to 82 for three seasons. The Buckeyes also voluntarily vacated their 2010 Sugar Bowl season. This year is the last in which current coach Urban Meyer and Co. have to deal with those sanctions.


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It's never too early to talk about signing day, especially with so many questions currently unanswered on the recruiting trail. Big unknowns remain for the Big Ten conference, so here are 10 questions leading up to signing day.

1. Last year, Ohio State finished with the No. 3 class in the nation. Can it happen again?


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From big visits to Big Ten schools building a solid base for the future, the conference wasn’t devoid of good storylines. Here’s a look at the week that was:

Boilermakers hope Drue finds ‘Tranquill’ setting

Purdue will get one last chance to impress three-star pledge Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) this weekend and it will come against the hottest team in the nation when the Boilermakers play Ohio State, which has won 20 games in a row. Tranquill has been a soft commit to Purdue since Notre Dame offered him a scholarship on Aug. 2. He’s visited both campuses several times since then and wants to make a choice after this visit.

Buckeyes’ big news after big recruiting weekend


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The Big Ten always has plenty of recruiting storylines worthy of following.

From key commitments to intriguing attempts to flip prospects committed elsewhere, here’s what went down in a very busy week on the trail for the conference.


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Early Offer: Top 5 had big weeks 

October, 28, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the newest edition of the BCS rankings released, we take a look at the biggest headlines of the top five teams from the recruiting trail.


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Ohio State's big win wows recruits 

October, 27, 2013
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Ohio State’s history-making 63-14 win over Penn State on Saturday didn’t go unnoticed by some of the top recruits who were visiting on campus.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsSolomon Thomas was one of many prospects who were impressed by Ohio State on Saturday.
Here’s a sampling of quotes we tracked down following the game:

“The atmosphere was amazing [and they have] great fans. I’ll remember how physical the defense was and the interaction between the players and coaches.” -- ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell), No. 31 in the nation.

“It was crazy. I thought it was great to see the fans stay even with the blowout, and how well the team played together, and how the coaches coached them up.” -- ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (Lexington, N.C./North Davidson), No. 21 in the nation.

“The crowd and atmosphere were both amazing. The coaches were super energetic. I’ll probably remember how disciplined the players were.” -- ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), No. 38 in the nation.

“The atmosphere was one that you will never forget. I have never been a part of something as big as that event. The amount of support from the fans was great. I will most likely remember meeting with Coach [Urban] Meyer this morning and meeting Braxton Miller last night after he game.” -- ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Brandon Wimbush (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), No. 74 in the nation.

“The atmosphere was crazy. It threw Penn State off [its] game. The best part was being there and seeing the fans doing their part to help with the win. The moment I will remember the most is Ohio State getting three turnovers in the first half. That was the game-changer right there.” -- ESPN Junior 300 outside linebacker Anthony McKee (Columbus/Walnut Ridge), No. 193 in the nation.


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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

September, 13, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH.

@buckeyefan686: How do you see Urban Meyer and Co. utilizing a player like Noah Brown?

Brad Bournival: First and foremost, Brown is a player who brings versatility and can play either split out or in the slot. He can even go in the backfield if Meyer needs him there. His size -- 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds -- makes him a solid choice to play the X receiver. With explosiveness and good route-running, he’s a natural to go out wide for Ohio State. Expect to see him on special teams soon for the Buckeyes.


@kraut2k: Is DeAnthony Arnett having a negative effect with Michigan State and Brian Cole?

Tom VanHaaren: It seems as though he might be, yes. Arnett, a wide receiver from Saginaw, Mich., hasn’t been getting playing time at Michigan State. He transferred from Tennessee after his freshman season, but hasn’t made an impact yet. That does seem to be something Cole (Saginaw, Mich./Heritage) has taken notice of. Cole and Arnett are friends, as is Cole’s father. A program can’t change what it does on the field for a recruit, but in this case it does look like it’s having an impact on this prospect. I’m not sure there is much that can be done if that’s the way Cole and his family feels.


@PSUlions1121: Have you heard anything about Justin Hilliard’s visit?

Bournival: After talking to his dad, the ESPN Junior 300 junior is very intrigued by “linebacker university” and wants to see what Happy Valley is all about. He also has heard all about the atmosphere of a night game, so he wanted to see that firsthand this weekend as well. He has rescheduled his trip to Kentucky for Oct. 12 when the Wildcats play Alabama.


@UMKirwin12: Which Big Ten teams do you think will see their class ranking change the most, up or down, from where they are now to where they end up on national signing day?

VanHaaren: I think Michigan and Ohio State still have a lot left on their boards to bump each of them up in the rankings. They are both in the top 10, but with some big prospects still in play, they could still see a bump. Northwestern, Michigan State and Nebraska are also teams that have opportunity to jump in the rankings as well. All three teams have ESPN 300 prospects still listing them in their top group, so there is a chance we could see some upward movement.


@darkknight1093: With all the turmoil at Texas, do you now see Ohio State as a serious contender to land Solomon Thomas or Myles Garrett?

Bournival: If things play out like they did with Penn State and Oregon in Meyer’s first two classes, don’t expect him to do much until after the season. I’m sure there is a lot of interest in Thomas and Garrett, but Meyer is very careful where he picks his spots.


@CooperLily21: General question for you. In your opinion what is the most important thing (or things) kids look for in a school?

VanHaaren: That’s tough to answer in a short response because there are so many factors for different kids. It really depends on what the prospect is looking for, what his situation is and what caliber player he is. I think the biggest similarity is a comfort level. This gets overlooked a lot, but a big part of why recruits take visits is to see how comfortable they feel with the coaches, players and that campus. That’s partially why it doesn’t always work out when a recruit is a fan of a school growing up and then ends up committing elsewhere. If he feels a different level of comfort or feels more wanted at a different program, that goes a long way.


@GRSportsBlog: Any idea what’s up with Dravon Henry and his shakeup with the top schools?

Bournival: In a nutshell, the ESPN 300 athlete just didn’t think Penn State was a good fit. ACC recruiting reporter Jared Shanker wrote an excellent piece on it Wednesday. It looks like it’s down to Pitt and West Virginia with Ohio State having an outside shot. The bowl ban might have played a role in Henry dropping the Nittany Lions.


@redwingyooper: Why the delay in Michigan offering Matt Burrell Jr. and Tim Settle when they have shown interest?

VanHaaren: Numbers are tight again for 2015, so every offer is important. Right now there are only around 15 scholarships available in that class. There are already technically seven spots taken up with greyshirt commit Brady Pallante counting towards 2015 for now. With attrition that total number of 15 can rise, so there are probably around 10 spots left, give or take. With Burrell, Michigan has Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia/St. Joseph’s Prep) already committed as an interior offensive lineman. That’s also what Burrell position Burrell plays, and Michigan seems to be in the market for tackles.

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