ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Looking closely at the Michigan secondary during Saturday’s spring game, a few things stand out about the group: For one, there’s plenty of youth roaming the back end of the defense. As for two, the athletic ability and range some of the defensive backs possess is a real strength. And three, talent is evident.
One player defensive coordinator Greg Mattison refers to when grouping the early-enrolled freshmen together as, “guys who should be at their prom,” is Ohio native, Dymonte Thomas. Thomas exchanged his tuxedo and boutonniere for a crisp, No. 25 jersey and his winged helmet, mixing in with the first team defense at nickel Saturday, deflecting a pass away, showing quickness in coverage, and willingness to help in run support.
“He’s definitely physically ready,” said Mattison. “He’s very fast and he’s a young man that it’s not too big for him. He comes in everyday and you correct him, he doesn’t go in the tank. He immediately says, ‘ok what do I have to do?’ Very seldom does he do it wrong again.”
Playing linebacker throughout his career at Marlington (Ohio) high school, Thomas brings an experience level and toughness for a defensive back playing close to the line of scrimmage. That allows Mattison to utilize him, not only to maximize the use of his skillsets, but also to fit the scheme he wants to run.
“That position for our defense has to be able to be a blitzer and he really shows that is something he’s going to be able to do very well,” said Mattison. “He’s a very conscientious young man and for a guy to come that should have been at his prom, to be here the whole time, and for him to pick it up like he did -- Dymonte Thomas had a very good spring for a young freshman.”
Thomas’ spring emergence hasn’t and won’t solidify any starting position until fall camp shakes itself out, but the freshman’s play did have a bit of a ripple effect for senior Courtney Avery. Avery has spent a significant amount of time at nickel throughout his career but slid over to corner primarily for the spring.
“What it allows a guy to do like Courtney is to just become as good as he can be at one position,” said Mattison. “Then he will go ahead and work as a back up at that or whoever becomes the nickel.
“It also helps Dymonte. Now he doesn’t have to work at safety and corner until we find out where he should play and he can work at one position.”
Still four months from the start of fall camp, Mattison can already envision Thomas plugging in early and often on his defense as a freshman.
“Based on the spring you’re going to see a guy that’s headed in the right direction to be there quite a bit this fall,” said Mattison.
“He’s a guy that, this summer, again, if he continues to do what he’s doing -- but we’ve been very happy with him.”
Watch video of Mattison discussing his young defensive line talent, developments at linebacker, and how close this defense is to being what he wants by clicking play below.