Michigan safety Dymonte Thomas shouldn’t have trouble helping players at other positions on the Wolverines' defense get lined up in the right place this fall, as he’s already played in most of their spots.
The senior bounced around to four different positions in the back seven during his freshman and sophomore seasons in Ann Arbor. He is thriving now that he’s settled into the free safety role and says he’s ready to take over as the voice of the team’s very talented secondary.
“When you can focus on one job, you can really learn it and excel in it and do the best you can,” Thomas said Thursday evening.
Safeties coach Brian Smith, who joined the team on short notice this spring, singled out Thomas as the player who has the best grasp on a new playbook so far. Smith played for and coached with new Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown in the past, but he and the secondary are learning the playbook together as he plays catch-up this month.
Smith said working with veteran players like Thomas and fellow senior Delano Hill has made the fast-paced transition an easier one than expected.
“We have an older team secondary wise. Those guys have definitely stepped up,” Smith said. “I’ve been surprised at how fast they’ve learned the system. Dymonte has done a good job of taking leadership back there with some of the younger guys and kind of bringing them along.”
The son of a Marine, Thomas said taking a leadership role comes naturally to him. He also had a good role model to follow in the player he’s replacing, Jarrod Wilson. The Michigan safeties speak about Wilson’s command of the defense and his ability to get all of his teammates in the right spot on each play with a degree of reverence normally reserved for an authority figure, not a peer.
Wilson was a soft-spoken leader, but was undoubtedly the man pulling a lot of the strings for a defensive backfield that held opponents to a lower passing rating and completion percentage than any other team in the nation in 2015. He’s also the only player that isn’t returning for a group that is expected to be dominant again next fall.
It will be Thomas’ job to make sure all of the well-equipped parts are still working in harmony without Wilson.
“Him and I talk every once in a while,” Thomas said. “He said you know it’s up to you. Everyone is going to count on you and look at you. If anything goes wrong everyone is going to blame you, so you might as well make the right checks, make the right calls, get everyone lined up, play fast and have fun.”
Hill, the more reserved of the two safeties this season, said the secondary has been a little louder this spring with Thomas taking over the calls and that the communication disseminates outward from the two of them to experienced cornerbacks and newcomers at linebacker.
“We work well together, I’ll say that,” Hill said. “We’ve been with each other a while. We’re tight.”
Hill and Thomas were both members of Michigan’s heralded 2013 recruiting class. Thomas said time has flown by as he approaches his final collegiate season. For perhaps the first time, he and Hill are now both in position to live up to the high expectations.