ALLEN, Texas -- It might be time to stop all that talk about Coppell (Texas) defensive end Solomon Thomas ending up inside at the defensive tackle position in college.
Sure, he could continue adding weight to his 260-pound frame, but the conclusive takeaway from a dominating performance at Sunday's Dallas Nike Football Training Camp that earned him the defensive line MVP award and a trip to The Opening at the end of June, is that Thomas has the ability to be an edge rusher in college.
Unfortunately for Thomas, he plays inside the tackles most of the time during the season for Coppell, where he's a beast against the run and willing to do the dirty work in the trenches.
On Sunday, however, he got to line up wide and go against some of the top tackles in the region, winning many of the battles handily with a strong first step and some excellent technique that allowed him to keep his opponents from getting their hands into his body to control him.
Thomas said he was taking it as an opportunity to showcase the tools he has been developing in the offseason.
"It's nice to see what I'm improved on over the offseason, to show off how hard I've been working."
While a position for some players is a dirty phrase that can end or damage their relationship with a particular school, Thomas takes a more pragmatic, team-oriented approach to speculation that he could end up at defensive tackle.
"I'm fine wherever the coaches put me, but every coach that I've talked to is recruiting me at defensive end. I've asked them that question and they have all told me that I'm going to stay at end," said Thomas.
A common tactic for coaches is to tell players what they want to hear about their future position before truly deciding what to do with them once they arrive on campus, especially true for athletic quarterbacks who often end up at wide receiver not far into their first fall camp.
However, for Thomas the statements ring true -- whatever he isn't able to show on Friday nights, he is able to showcase in spades at events like the NFTC. He is truly a player who could have upside as a pass-rusher despite being on the heavy end of the spectrum for a collegiate strongside defensive end. The Coppell product is just that talented.
The invite to The Opening is the end result of a lot of dedication for Thomas, who targeted the Nike event as a major goal for him after attending the Dallas NFTC last year.
"It's great," he said. "It's been a goal of mine since last year at the NFTC, so to get it is a blessing and I'm truly blessed."
As far as his recruitment goes, Thomas is one of the most highly-coveted players in the state of Texas. He has a number of high-profile offers, but what he doesn't have is a favorite. Or even a group of favorites. Everyone is even right now, according to Thomas, and his recruitment wide open.
Planning a decision after his senior season, the physically impressive Thomas plans on taking all five of his official visits, but doesn't yet know which schools will receive those trips, either. Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are schools that he plans on visiting unofficially over the summer.
There are a few schools that would seem to be heavily in the mix based on the number of previous visits there.
The Texas Longhorns stand out as one of those schools and Thomas cited his comfort level with the Texas coaches, including defensive end coach Oscar Giles. Later, the highly-coveted prospect cited comfort level as one of the most important considerations in his recruitment, along with finding a place he could see himself with or without football.
Proximity and the education offered in Austin are also appealing for the imposing, 6'3 specimen.
The Longhorns are earning something of a reputation as Defensive Line U for their ability to put defensive lineman into the NFL. Thomas said that "credibility" of a school with their ability to get players to the next level will be a factor in his recruitment, one that would seem to help the 'Horns.
His friendship with some of the Texas commits from the Dallas area in the 2014 class, however, won't play a role.
"I'm my own person and I'm just going to do me," said Thomas. "Whatever I think is best for me, I'm going to do. I won't let other people sway me because of what they want me to do."
Another school that has received a recent visit from Thomas is Oklahoma.
"I like coach Montgomery -- he's a technician and a really good coach," he said. "I like how close it is. It's a good school and a great college town, so I like it there."
Despite appreciating the proximity of both Austin and Norman to the Metroplex, Thomas maintained that proximity won't be a major factor in his recruitment, as evidenced by his consideration of several West Coast schools that he visited last summer.
The defensive end said while he doesn't have any family ties to the area, the visits were prompted by a family vacation out there. Both UCLA and Stanford have excellent academics and coaching staffs, according to Thomas, as well as a history of success in the Pac-12.
Another school that could factor into his recruitment is Arkansas. He's made a number of visits to Fayetteville because his sister is a Razorback. Despite all those previous visits, Thomas told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the Hogs weren't really under consideration previously, but that they are now after he enjoyed the campus and got to see some SEC-style physicality in practice.
At this point, the five schools mentioned above as having received visits would seem to be in the strongest positions to land an official visit from Thomas, with the schools he will visit this summer needing to make strong impressions in a short period of time. But it's difficult to say that he has a favorite behind the scenes -- Thomas does seem genuinely open to the process at this point.
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