NEW IBERIA, La. - Rivals.com touched down yesterday and began a 20 school tour in southern Louisiana. Yesterday you heard about Destrehan's Jai Eugene, today Rivals.com visited several other prospects, but perhaps the most intriguing prospect on Wednesday was New Iberia offensive guard Zhamal Thomas, who kept a low profile over the summer.
Thomas played last season at about 340 pounds, he's worked hard in the off-season lifting weights, running and shedding the pounds. This fall he looks to be a dominant force in the trenches.
"Most coaches and scouts and stuff have noticed me from the way I trap," Thomas said. "We run a lot of powers and counters and stuff in this offense and I'm just a real aggressive player up there. I fire off the line quick and don't stop until the whistle blows. Last year everyone else around the area finished the season with about 20 or 21 pancakes and I finished with 41."
Thomas still has some work to do in the classroom to become eligible, but he and his school counselors have set things up to where if all goes according to plan in the classroom, he'll be good to go. Despite the academic issues, Thomas is already getting the love from college coaches.
"Some of the biggest offers I have right now are from Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas, Florida, Clemson, Oklahoma and Auburn," Thomas said. "I have a top three, but it's more like a top five really. LSU, Ole Miss and Clemson are my top three, but Arkansas and Florida are just as much in it. LSU is the home team and grew up watching them as a kid.
Arkansas has done a good job recruiting me and I really like their coaches. I really like what the coaches from Clemson have had to say, they make it sound great up there. Florida is definitely in the mix, I just like the idea of playing down there. I really like my recruiting coach at Ole Miss and they send me a lot of handwritten letters and stuff like that."
Thomas is ranked as the No. 6 player in the state of Louisiana and is ranked as the nation's No. 11 offensive guard. He is a member of the Rivals 250 as well.
"I sort of feel a big push to go to LSU," Thomas said. "Everyone is always asking me when I'm going to be a Tiger. Everyone around here is big LSU fan's. Right now though I am still trying to learn more about all of the schools and make the best choice for me and my future. Florida, Clemson, Arkansas and LSU are all going to get official visits for sure."
Though Thomas grew up a fan of the home state Tigers he has never been to Baton Rouge on a gameday, something that will change this fall.
"I can't wait to go to some games this fall at different schools," Thomas said. "I've never even been to an LSU game. I am looking forward to going up there for the first time. People that have been to games there say it is crazy and that it is a lot of fun, so I am looking forward to seeing what it's all about."
Thomas certainly takes heart and appreciation in the lofty rankings and the number of scholarship offers he has earned, but don't think that has made him complacent.
"I'm working harder than ever," Thomas said. "I'm always watching film of guards in college and the pro's. In high school you can just muscle everybody around, but on that level everyone is good so it is more about technique. I'm always looking to improve my technique and my feet and whatever else I can to make myself a better player."
Stay tuned as Rivals.com brings you more coverage from the Pelican State with updates for the rest of the week and a full slate of interviews all the way through next week.