Defensive tackle Deontre Thomas is listed at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, about what you might expect for a true freshman at his position at a Big Ten school.
What you can never assume for a player making that jump: Deontre Thomas can move. Not just for a freshman. He’s impressing veterans.
“You kind of take notice of him in one-on-ones,” junior Cole Conrad said Tuesday after Nebraska’s practice at Memorial Stadium. “You can definitely tell he’s got some shake and got some move to him. That’s when you can tell what a guy is capable of maybe.”
Through three full weeks of fall camp, the freshman from Mustang, Oklahoma, has proved more than capable, working his way up the Huskers’ depth chart at nose tackle. When presumed starter Mick Stoltenberg missed most of last week with a minor injury, it was Thomas who stepped in to take first-team snaps.
The offensive line picked up on the difference between the mountainous (6-5, 305) Stoltenberg and the shake-and-move Thomas.
“It’s noticeable,” Conrad said. “Deontre Thomas is doing a great job. He’s going to be a great player. He’s got good quickness and power to him.”
He’ll need both in the Big Ten, but with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco known for using plenty of players in plenty of specialized roles it’s looking more and more like Thomas will be a part of those plans.
Nebraska’s other freshman defensive lineman in the class still might be, too. At 6-2, 310 pounds, Damion Daniels offers a different perspective. According to junior Khalil Davis, who has spent time at defensive tackle and end during fall camp, that difference is both physical and in terms of personality.
“Deontre puts his own mix [on things], he’s his own person,” Davis said. “He’s very serious, [and] he’s very mature for his age so he always comes ready to play.
“Damion, he has the kind of funniness, but he knows what he can do. He’s a big boy . . . He can plug holes. We call him Baby D.”
Husker fans could be calling them contributors soon enough.