April 10, 2009 in Sports

Walk-on Thomas stands out

By The Spokesman-Review
 

PULLMAN – When Paul Wulff took over as head football coach at Washington State University, one area he hoped to bulk up was the school’s walk-on program.

If you are looking for the type of player Wulff’s team is looking for, search no further than Shane Thomas.

Co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears readily admits it, saying the 5-foot-10, 190-pound redshirt junior from Spokane’s North Central High has all the intangibles WSU wants, including a firm character, strong work ethic, commitment and leadership traits.

“When it comes to our walk-on program, he’s a great example of what they are supposed to be about,” Sears said. “Plus, at the same time, he’s a good football player. He can run. He’s got some athletic skills.”

As spring practice passed the halfway point Thursday, Thomas, who ran a school-record 100 meters in 10.6 seconds as a junior at NC, was holding down a cornerback spot with the Cougars’ No. 1 unit.

But even he admits that’s a little more than he can hope for. Because of injuries and academic deficiencies, WSU had just three cornerbacks available for practice.

Thomas isn’t about to forgo the opportunity to show his talents.

“It made me say, ‘Whoa, maybe I can get into the rotation at corner,’ ” Thomas said of the spring-time defections. “It gets your hopes up, for sure.”

But nothing in Thomas’ football past, not at NC where he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the wing-T offense as a senior, nor his one year of playing slot receiver at Whitworth, has prepared him for the rigors of playing cornerback in Division I.

“It’s a learning curve,” said Thomas, who played 11 games for the Pirates in 2006, contributing to their 11-1 season by catching five passes for 55 yards. “I haven’t played as much corner as I would have liked coming into this season, obviously, whether it be at high school or any other level. It’s just a learning curve. I make good plays, then I’ll have a play where I don’t do so well, miss an assignment.

“I just have to keep my head up and keep pushing on. I think I’m getting better each and every practice.”

Don’t think Thomas will be crushed if he can’t hold on to the starting cornerback spot. He has other goals.

“He wants to be in the two-deep on every special team,” Sears said, mentioning Thomas’ two special team tackles against Arizona State and his contributions in the Apple Cup last season, his first at WSU after sitting out a transfer year.

“I think that’s a realistic goal,” Sears said.

Notes

Saturday’s scrimmage, originally scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., has been moved to 10:30. Wulff has modest goals for the workout. “Ultimately, we just want to take a step from the last scrimmage,” he said. “We just want better execution across the board.” He said there will be special-team work in the middle to see “if we can get in-and-out and execute those things. We’re taking it a little step further.” … If there was a star at Thursday’s practice, it was linebacker Louis Bland. The sophomore intercepted a pass in a goal-line drill and also was nearly unblockable in team drills, sacking Kevin Lopina by splitting two blockers before they could put a hand on him. … Former Cougars Brandon Gibson, waiting for this month’s NFL draft, and Cory Evans were in attendance, playing catch on the sidelines for a while. … Quarterback J.T. Levenseller was still on crutches, not healed yet from last week’s knee contusion.


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