Ask Fort Worth Southwest linebacker and TCU recruit Semaj Thomas what his weaknesses are and he’ll be happy to share the fact that he hopes to work on his coverage skills, his ability to read offensive schemes and just overall football IQ.
That’s one of the reasons he chose to play under the tutelage of defensive guru and TCU head coach Gary Patterson.
However, ask Thomas’ coach at Southwest, Lanny Trammell, and he’ll spell out a different story.
“For a high school kid, he’s a student of the game,” Trammell said. “He watches film and watches TV and people play. He knows a lot of differences about the different defenses and different looks. He was always talking about what did he have to do. I thought sometimes he was too hard on himself.”
Thomas is one of three linebackers in TCU’s recruiting class, a position of little depth with the departures of seniors Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson.
It’s not necessarily a chip on his shoulder for being only a three-star recruit that could drive him into playing time as a true freshman, but an unquenchable desire to be better each day.
“Knowing that they are leaving, I do have a shot at being on the field early, but I know with that being said, I know I have to work harder than anybody, because even though they’re leaving, I’m still going up against some people that have been there for a while and are looking for that same shot of being on the field,” Thomas said.
Freeze is a strapping 6-3, 220 pounds and runs the 40 in about 4.5 seconds. He looks for the big hit whenever he can but did not play his senior season because of a shoulder injury that needed surgical repair. He finished his high school career at Weatherford but was not involved with the football team. He has enrolled early at TCU so he can participate in spring practice.
“He’s extremely smart, and that’s what TCU likes about him,” HornedFrogBlitz publisher Jeremy Clark said.
Dunham, who is 6-1, 213 and runs a 4.43 40, doesn’t have the same background in the 4-2-5 defense as Freeze or Thomas, but is an exciting player to watch.
“Dunham is pure energy,” PurpleMenace publisher Billy Wessels said. “He’s got a high motor and is all over the field. He’s the kind of guy that once he gets a grasp of TCU’s defense could make an impact pretty quickly.”
Dunham gave TCU his commitment in November of 2013 and didn’t waiver. He also had an ACL tear in 2013 that somewhat slowed his recruitment. But Dunham worked hard in school, earned first-team academic all-state honors, graduated early and now, like Freeze, has also enrolled in classes this spring.
Both Clark and Wessels said they wouldn’t be surprised if none of the three were to redshirt this season, and at least see playing time on special teams.
Since all three come out of high school as consensus three-star recruits, they know they fit right into Patterson’s defensive formula.
“TCU’s defense works as a team,” Thomas said. “You have a lot of athletes that aren’t really five-star athletes, but what sets them apart is that they work together and they’re willing to go out there and play the game that they love, which makes them a lot stronger than what a lot of people think about them.”
National Signing Day
TCU’s linebackers class
Alec Dunham, 6-1, 213 (Coldspring): Known for his ability to cover the field. Has enrolled early.
Mike Freeze, 6-3, 200 (Graham): Finished high school at Weatherford but did not play football because of a shoulder injury. Enrolled early at TCU so he could participate in spring practice.
Semaj Thomas, 6-1, 231 (Fort Worth Southwest): Defensive-end-turned-linebacker known as a student of the game.