Former Bulldogs’ All-American Phillip Thomas made an impression, on and off the field

Former Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas has made an impression in mini camp and OTAs with the Washington Redskins, and there is a chance the fourth-round draft pick could be starting very early in the season.

Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, another rookie defensive back with the Redskins, did a Google hangout with some fans and media members for the Washington Post this week, touching on a wide variety of subjects including … Chicken McNuggets.

Thomas said he was headed back to Fresno to workout with some of his former teammates before the start of camp – probably a good thing.





Former Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas signs with Washington

Safety Phillip Thomas, who was the Washington Redskins’ fourth-round selection in the NFL Draft, signed with the team on Friday, the fifth of their seven selections to finalize a contract.

Terms were not disclosed, but the Washington Post reported the deal was comparable to what linebacker Keenan Robinson received from the Redskins last year as the 119th overall pick a year ago – that is a four-year contract worth $2.5 million that came with a $425,000 signing bonus. Thomas also was the 119th overall selection.

Thomas, who last season led the bowl subdivision in interceptions for the Bulldogs and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award,  is expected to contend for a starting spot this season. He played strong safety at Fresno State, but can play both free and strong safety positions in the NFL.

Phillip Thomas puts play-making ability on display at Redskins’ mini camp

The Washington Redskins completed their first rookie mini camp on Sunday and former Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas made an impression on the final day with, not surprisingly, an interception and a forced and recovered fumble.

Former Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas made an impression in rookie mini camp with the Washington Redskins.

Thomas, who got reps at free and strong safety over the past three days, led the bowl subdivision with eight interceptions last season when becoming the first unanimous All-American in school history and playing a huge role in the Bulldogs’ defense.

Here is a recap from the mini camp from the Washington Post, which includes comments from Coach Mike Shanahan on Thomas and the other two defensive backs drafted by the Redskins, and a breakdown on what Thomas faces getting up to speed for his first NFL season.

The to-do list, Thomas told the Post, is simple: ”Technique. Technique and everything. Everybody’s a lot faster and a lot better at this level and you have to have great technique to keep up with those dudes who are running 4.2 and 4.3′s and technique is what’s going to help you make up for speed.”

Fresno State/NFL catch-up: Thomas drafted, five others to rookie mini-camps

Robbie Rouse, the Fresno State record-holder for career rushing yards with 4,647, has been invited to the Minnesota Vikings’ rookie mini-camp in May.

Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas was the only Bulldogs player selected in the NFL Draft, going to the Washington Redskins in the fourth round. But five other players have been invited to mini-camps, which will be held May 3-5 or May 10-12.

Running back Robbie Rouse, the Bulldogs’ all-time rushing leader, will be in camp with the Minnesota Vikings.

Wide out Rashad Evans and linebacker/safety Shawn Plummer will be going to camp with the Atlanta Falcons.

Outside linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo will be in camp with the Miami Dolphins and punter Andrew Shapiro with the Houston Texas.




Bulldogs get their Mountain West Conference championship rings

Fresno State safety Derron Smith shows off his Mountain West division championship ring he, along with the rest of the team, received at the annual awards banquet March 22, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

The Fresno State Bulldogs received their Mountain West Conference championship rings on Friday at their annual awards banquet; big, bright numbers with a Bulldog logo prominently featured in the middle. ‘’They’re blingy,’’ Coach Tim DeRuyter said, with a smile.

Running back Robbie Rouse, who set the all-time school record for rushing yards, was honored as the team’s most valuable player, and linebackers Tristan Okpalaugo, Shawn Plummer and Jeremiah Toma, punter Andrew Shapiro, quarterback Derek Carr, strong safety Phillip Thomas, running back Josh Quezada and defensive end Matt Akers also won individual awards.

Akers, a senior who had started all 13 games in 2011 as an undersized defensive end, lost his chance to play much less start when the Bulldogs switched to a 3-4 from the 4-3, spent the last half of the season preparing true freshman Alex Fifita to start week to week at right tackle and was honored as the defensive scout team player of the year. ‘’He had as big a role in us winning those last five of the regular season as anyone did,’’ offensive line coach Cameron Norcross said.

Akers in practice went at Fifita on every rep – he was working with the first and second teams to get as much work as possible – using his quickness to get the freshman used to the speed of the game.

‘’I think it’s quite a testament to his character,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’A senior who was a former starter … scheme switches, coaches change, a lot of times those guys go south and become problems in the locker room. He was a guy that really pushed Alex Fifita to get better and I don’t know that Alex would have been good enough to start for us a year ago if it weren’t for Matt Akers.

‘’To me, he’s the essence of what a team guy is – ‘I may not get the glory of playing on Saturday, but I’m going to make our team as good as possible.’ For him to earn that award, I think it speaks volumes.’’

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Phillip Thomas’ bags are packed — for a long time

Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas is about to embark on a national tour visiting with NFL teams.

Phillip Thomas’ itinerary indicates but one thing for the Fresno State All-America safety — he’s wanted.

And, five weeks prior to the NFL draft, what greater feeling for a college prospect?

Projected by many as a second-round selection in the April 25-27 draft at New York, Thomas is flying to Carolina on Thursday for a meeting with Panthers coaches and management.

Then to Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh — and likely more.

“Quite a few,” he said Wednesday after an encouraging running performance during Pro Day at Bulldog Stadium.

Generally, 35-year NFL scout Phil Neri of the Tennessee Titans said, Pro Day auditions are geared more toward late-round draft picks or free agents — mostly for players hoping for a mere tryout following the draft.

But occasionally, Neri said, “filling in” a certain number can boost the stock of an elite player as well.

Thomas would like to think that applied to him Wednesday, when he timed two 40-yard dashes in the low 4.5-second range after clocking a “pretty average” 4.65 in the February’s NFL Scouting Combine at Indianapolis.

“I feel like I had a good day today,” the 6-0 1/2-inch, 213-pounder from Bakersfield said Wednesday after also running shuttle and triple-cone drills. “I had solid numbers for a safety.”

Besides his scheduled meetings — which, per NFL rules, will not include workouts — he said he’ll return to Bulldog Stadium soon for private workouts with Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Thomas said he’s confident he’s a “solid second-rounder.”

“But, who knows?” he said. “I could jump into the first round or fall into the third.”

NFL Combine invites Fresno State’s Rouse, Thomas along with McDonald, Bray, Jefferson and Wilson

Fresno State senior running back Robbie Rouse enters Bulldog Stadium before the Bulldogs’ game against Air Force on Nov. 24, 2012. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Running back Robbie Rouse — Fresno State’s all-time leading rusher — and safety Phillip Thomas – a unanimous All-American at safety this past fall for the Bulldogs — have been invited to the NFL Combine, scheduled for Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis.

USC All-America safety T.J. McDonald from Edison High also was invited.

In addition, three juniors with ties to the Fresno area earned invitations: Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray from Kingsburg High, Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson from El Diamante High and former Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson out of Tulare High.

Here is the schedule of workouts, with coverage on the NFL Network:

** Saturday, Feb. 23: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams.

** Sunday, Feb. 24: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers.

** Monday, Feb. 25: Defensive linemen, linebackers.

** Tuesday, Feb. 26: Defensive backs.

Fresno State claims all three player of year awards in Mountain West Conference

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr was selected as the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year, strong safety Phillip Thomas as the defensive player of the year and Davante Adams as freshman of the year, the first time in history that one school has swept all three awards.

Carr led the league in completions, completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns and is the first Bulldogs’ player to be   a offensive player of the year since his brother, David, was the Western Athletic Conference award in 2001.

Thomas, who led the MWC with eight interceptions and returned three for touchdowns, is the 10th player from Fresno State to be selected as a defensive player of the year, the most recent Chris Carter in 2010.

Adams, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards and touchdown receptions, is the third freshman from Fresno State to win the award and the first since Ryan Wendell in 2004.

Seven Bulldogs were selected to the conference first team in a vote of coaches and media that covers the league – Carr, Thomas, Adams, running back Robbie Rouse, offensive tackle Austin Wentworth, nose guard Tyeler Davison and safety Derron Smith.

Mike linebacker Travis Brown and defensive end Andy Jennings are on the second team, while cornerbacks Sean Alston and L.J. Jones, receiver Isaiah Burse, center Richard Helepiko, tight end Marcel Jensen and punter Andrew Shapiro gained honorable mention.

Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas has numbers that stack up well against anyone

Manti Te’o is a pretty good football player and the linebacker at Notre Dame has been the focus of a lot of attention this season, gaining a strong foothold in the Heisman Trophy race after recording 11 tackles, one sack and one interception last week in a solid road victory at No. 8 Oklahoma.

He is having a tremendous season, has a great back story.

But he isn’t necessarily the most productive defensive player in the bowl subdivision – or even at his position. Te’o has been in on 80 tackles, tied for 19th in the nation. But there are a few players out there with pretty good numbers including, Fresno State points out, Bulldogs’ safety Phillip Thomas, who on Monday was selected as one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award.

How do Te’o and Thomas compare at this point in the season?

Tackles – Te’o 80, Thomas 55

Tackles for loss – Thomas 7.0 for minus-30 yards, Te’o 4.5 for minus-14

Sacks – Thomas 3.0 for minus-19 yards, Teo 1.0 for minus-9

QB hurries – Te’o 4, Thomas 1

Interceptions – Thomas 7, Te’o 5

Touchdowns – Thomas 3, Te’o 0

Pass Breakups – Thomas 4, Te’o 3

Fumble recoveries – Te’o 2, Thomas 1

Forced fumbles – Thomas 3, Te’o 0

Georgia has a pretty good linebacker in Jarvis Jones, too, and is well ahead of Te’o in several important statistical categories.

Jones already has 14 tackles for loss for a minus-84 yards, 8.5 sacks for a minus-69 yards, 15 quarterback hurries and five forced fumbles.