South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp recruited defensive lineman Keir Thomas for a long time. First as Florida’s coach, then as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.
But the true freshman that Muschamp now coaches at USC doesn’t look much like the one he first laid eyes on.
“He was about 220 then,” Muschamp said. “He’s about 270 right now. So his body has changed a lot, in a good way. He continues to build girth. I always feel like, and I’m not saying people can’t do it, but the closer your position is to the ball, the harder it is to play as a freshman because the game is bigger and it’s much, much faster. It’s much more violent.”
Yet Thomas has played, and a good amount. He’s seen action in all six games and started the past two. .
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And he’s drawn rave reviews from teammates and his coach.
“He’s very impressive,” defensive end Darius English said. “I haven’t seen a freshman like that. He probably has the most energy on the defense. With him being a freshman, it’s going to be very exciting to see him play in the future.”
Defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth echoed that, adding Thomas has the quickness and speed the line needs. He’s made 12 tackles and has a sack as part of the balanced defensive line rotation that goes at least seven deep.
Muschamp said there’s still progress to be made. But the coach said Thomas has the approach he wanted. That entails practicing the right way, coming in with a mentality the coach likes and a competitive edge that’s allowed him to improve.
He’s done all that despite playing a spot he wasn’t projected to play when he came on campus.
As a recruit, he was listed at 245 pounds. He projected to be a defensive end or a Buck. But he got bigger. After going through the spring as an end, he started lining up at tackle in August camp and that’s become his home.
“He’s a guy that can probably play about three different positions on our defense,” English said. “It’s exciting to watch him play.”