Entering his fourth year as a member of the Florida State football team, linebacker Matthew Thomas may finally be putting all the pieces together.
Thomas, who arrived in Tallahassee as a part of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class, has always been a player labeled with nearly limitless potential. For some perspective on exactly how highly he was regarded entering FSU, senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who enrolled at Florida State at the same time as Thomas, recently reminded the media that Thomas, a five-star LB recruit out of Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, was the highest ranked member of FSU’s 2013 recruiting class, above former Seminole and top-five NFL Draft pick Jalen Ramsey, who was second in the class, and Walker himself, who was third.
However, Thomas has struggled mightily to remain on the field during his time at FSU. Over his first three years as a ‘Nole, Thomas has started in only 12 games. Four of those were during the 2013 season before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and eight more came in 2014 before he was suspended for a violation of team rules. In 2015, he was ineligible for the entire season after a violation of NCAA rules.
So far this season though, Thomas has been showing the rest of his team that he has truly changed.
“He matured a lot,” Walker said of the character work that Thomas has put in. “He officially bought in.”
Thomas’ ability has never been brought into question, but his lingering issues have kept him from consistently showing exactly what he is capable of. Now that his teammates can see that, there’s been nothing but positive feedback thrown his way.
“Matt has given the team everything. I can truly say that. He has laid it on the line for us,” sophomore safety Derwin James stated in praise of Thomas. “He’s a huge part of this team that we need.”
Citing what it is that he does so well, Walker was quick to share, “Matthew has so much talent. He can do anything. He can run, he can cover, he can rush, he can play the run. Adding that to our defense makes us so much more multi-dimensional.”
Despite how his teammates have raved about Thomas, Jimbo Fisher may speak higher of Thomas than anyone, pointing out his strengths as follows: “Really good cover skills, athletic, he’s playing really good football right now.”
“Right now, he’s just happy. He’s in a good place. He’s having fun out there,” defensive coordinator Charles Kelly shared at Florida State Media Day about what he has seen in Thomas’ new demeanor since returning to the team.
Perhaps FSU’s star running back Dalvin Cook, who has known Thomas all the way back to their days playing youth football together in the Miami area, can best sum up the changes he has seen from Thomas over the last year.
“He got a whole new mindset,” Cook replied after a recent practice. “He’s out there looking like a whole new guy.”
When prompted as to if he was impressed by Thomas’ discipline, which kept him in good condition while he was forced to be away from the team for an entire season, Cook admitted, “That’s why I respect him so much,” going on to add, “I think him doing that is paying off for him right now because his play on the field is tremendous right now.”
The tremendous play that Cook alluded to could go a long way toward aiding the linebacker position group that the majority of those who follow the Seminoles were most concerned with, depth-wise, entering spring practice. If Thomas is able to fully tap into his full potential playing next to the other starting linebacker, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Florida State’s inside linebackers could be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.