Phillip Thomas, the first unanimous All-American in Fresno State history, is at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this week, to be put under the microscope and work out for NFL coaches, scouts and executives, leaving a substantial hole in a Bulldogs’ defense that made a remarkable transition under the 3-4 schemes brought in by Coach Tim DeRuyter and defensive coordinator Nick Toth.
Thomas, also a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, led the nation with interceptions with eight (returning three for TDs to set a school record) and was the Bulldogs’ top tackler with 82.
Defensive backs were a huge priority for Fresno State in the 2013 recruiting class before Thomas had his huge senior season, and the Bulldogs have oral commitments in advance of the Feb. 6 national letter of intent signing day from Donnell Vercher from Fresno City College and Justin Holmes from Edison High and already signed Rodney Mathews from Citrus College in Glendora to build some depth and competition at the strong and free safety positions.
Under NCAA rules, DeRuyter and the Bulldogs staff cannot comment on recruits until after a letter of intent has been signed. But Mathews (6-foot, 195 pounds) has enrolled in school and will participate in spring practices.
Here is DeRuyter on Mathews:
‘’With us losing Phillip, we had a big-time need there. We have some young guys – you know, Charles Washington did some good things on special teams, but he has to learn the defense better. But we just don’t have a lot of veteran guys. Dalen Jones we think is going to be a guy, but we didn’t feel good enough that he’s established himself enough yet so we wanted to bring some competition in there. Mathews is a guy, he’s played against good competition, he’s physical, he plays the ball extremely well. I think he’s going to have a chance to come in and right away, be in here in the spring, and establish that he can be the starter or at least compete for it.’’ Read more →