Seven games into the 2021 season, Guy Thomas was one of the better players on the Colorado defense.
Although a foot injury sidelined him for the final five games, Thomas is back on the field this spring and feels he’s taken his game to another level.
“Oh, yeah, I don’t think I missed a step,” Thomas, an outside linebacker, said after a recent practice. “I think I’m just as fast. I believe that my speed didn’t go anywhere. I’m only getting better.”
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Still, the sixth-year senior is motivated to get even better while being fueled by the competition provided by others in his position group.
CU, which completed the ninth of 15 spring practices on Wednesday, is looking to replace Carson Wells, one of the more disruptive edge rushers in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. It’ll take more than Thomas, though, as the Buffs – even with Wells – ranked last in the Pac-12 in sacks last year, with 13 (1.08 per game).
“I think that’s kind of that chip on their shoulder is trying to prove that they’re better than what they were a year ago and rightfully so,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “They’re making that progress right now. I think we have more depth on those edges, so that we can now play a 60-minute game and feel like there won’t be much drop off in terms of the pass rush. But, they do have an edge about wanting to prove that they’re not the same team they were a year ago.”
Early last season, Wells and Thomas formed a solid 1-2 punch on the edge. Thomas, a former junior college transfer who began his career at Nebraska, had his most productive stretch in college. In seven games, he racked up 36 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss, as well as two forced fumbles.
“I made a lot of plays, but I missed a lot of plays,” he said. “This year, I’m looking to be a different guy. I’m looking to be a faster guy, a more explosive guy. I’m looking to make more plays. I’m looking to do a lot of good things and be one of the key players, impact players on his defense.”
He’s one of the older players on the defense and refers to the outside linebackers as “my group,” but also recognizes the talent around him.
According to Dorrell, Thomas is one of several edge players having a strong spring, along with seniors Chance Main and Jamar Montgomery and sophomore Alvin Williams. Redshirt freshmen Devin Grant and Zion Magalei are pushing the veterans, too.
“We have a lot of guys who want to compete, a lot of guys who want to compete for the starting job, which is a good thing,” Thomas said. “It makes me excited. They are pushing me to work harder, because I don’t want to lose my spot and I’m not going to lose my spot, so I welcome the challenge.”
In the offseason, Dorrell made a change in leadership at outside linebacker. Coach Brian Michalowski wasn’t retained, while defensive coordinator Chris Wilson shifted from coaching defensive line to the outside linebackers.
“I definitely do miss B-Mike, but coach Wilson, he’s a different guy,” Thomas said. “He comes with different energy. Every practice is intense because that’s the person he is, that’s the guy he is. So I definitely can’t wait to see the final product of Guy Thomas after fall camp going into our first game.”
Working with Wilson, Thomas said he is working on his pass rush and “having a signature pass rush move. I also want to work on just the fundamental things: get off, keys, play recognition. I want to work on watching film, anything that will make me better.”
Thomas has succeeded in the classroom, too. He has his bachelor’s degree in hand and is currently working on his masters in organizational leadership. At CU’s annual academics awards banquet, he received the Clancy A. Herbst Jr. Student-Athlete Achievement Award for succeeding academically through personal, academic or emotional difficulties.
“I had a lot of personal issues, dealing with a lot of family issues back home, but I didn’t really let it affect me,” he said. “I kept my academics first and practice and everything like that. I stayed solid, and my coaches and academic advisors applaud me for that. They were there to help me, which I appreciate.
“It means a lot being recognized for things I had accomplished during my challenging times. Not too many people know about it, but it’s nice to be recognized. It means a whole lot to me.”
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