Briarcrest (Memphis, Tennessee) lineman Omari Thomas, who will announce his commitment live on NBC at the Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, is down to his final six schools – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
The 6-foot-5, 299-pound senior said that he plans to take official visits to Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M. He has yet to decide whether he will use his fifth official visit on Ole Miss or Auburn.
RELATED: Thomas announces top six
Thomas, a four-star recruit per the 247Sports Composite and ranked the fourth-best player in Tennessee, explained why he picked each of his top six schools in an interview with The Commercial Appeal:
Alabama’s winning tradition and success in the NFL Draft stand out to Thomas.
“At Alabama, you go in, work hard and you have that mind-set of wanting to be the best, thinking you can be the best and that you can get to the league,” Thomas said. “Everybody knows it’s kind of a guarantee that if you go to Alabama, do what you need to do, and stay healthy, you can easily get to the league.”
However, he said he is attracted to the idea of helping whichever program he chooses reach an even higher level of success. Alabama, which has won five of the past 10 national championships, doesn’t fit with that particular goal.
“But the way I think – not saying that I wouldn’t consider Alabama, but I think that I want to help a school build a legacy, not necessarily join one,” Thomas said. “Joining one wouldn’t hurt, but it’s a situation that I’d have to look into and see if I fit there and if I’m comfortable there.”
Thomas sees Arkansas as a program that recruits Memphis hard and still has room to grow.
“What’s funny is that I kind of consider Arkansas as an in-state school because they have so many Memphis people there,” Thomas said. “They recruit Memphis hard, and what sold me on them is just building a program and seeing how I’d fit with their program and knowing people.”
For Auburn, Thomas noted he had good relationships with coach Gus Malzahn and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes.
“Coach Malzahn is a great dude. Coach Grimes is a great dude,” Thomas said. “Just getting the chance to build a relationship with those guys has been really nice.”
He also said that Auburn is the only school in his top six that is recruiting him as an offensive lineman. The others want him on defense.
“Auburn, they talk to me as both. I can see myself being more of an offensive tackle at Auburn,” Thomas said.
Thomas said Ole Miss has been recruiting him longer than any other school in his top six. He said his interest in the Rebels cooled when former coach Hugh Freeze resigned in 2017, but he formed relationships with the new Ole Miss coaching staff that helped the Rebels regain their competitiveness in his recruitment.
“Things happened at the school. Everyone knows that. And it just kind of chilled out because I didn’t know how I would feel going into that situation,” Thomas said. “But, I just looked at the new coaching staff and how they’re recruiting, and they still recruit based on not letting what happened in the past distract you from what can happen in the future. That’s what they’re selling.”
It appears as if Tennessee is giving Thomas a similar pitch to the one that helped the Vols land Lausanne running back Eric Gray.
“They’re the in-state school. You get a good feeling there. It’s comfortable. It’s a program that’s been down a little bit but will be on the rise with the new coaching staff,” Thomas said. “That’s what they’re selling – come here and build this program back to where it used to be. And I like the idea of coming to build a program.”
He also said that coach Jeremy Pruitt is “the kind of coach you want.”
“Coach Pruitt is a laid-back guy, but he’s going to get on you. It’s not going to be easy there. He’s not a pushover,” Thomas said. “But he’s a players coach, and that’s the kind of coach you want – someone who will get on you but talk to you as well.”
Thomas said that he prefers playing defense over offense because of the opportunity to make plays and have his name called. Texas A&M told him he’ll have the opportunity to make those plays as a part of the Aggies’ defense.
“They’ll have me playing as a three technique at ‘D’ tackle. And they told me its not a defense where you’re just locked in against the offensive lineman for the linebackers to make plays; you’re going to make plays, so that’s what I like there,” Thomas said. “And my relationships with the coaching staff are very good, and I just didn’t have any bad vibes there, either.”