There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it will do so in empty stadiums with a conference-only schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Charles Thomas, redshirt FR
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (ILB 26, Overall 507)
2019 Stats: 2 games played
Under Don Brown, linebackers are called to fill a variety of roles on the field and come in many shapes and sizes. Michigan enters 2020 with a solid batch of players who can be deployed across these positions, but there will be some opportunities for newer names to step forward. One such player is Charles Thomas, who looks like a traditional inside linebacker ready to contribute.
Thomas saw very little action during his first season but could be primed for a big jump forward. He was not a blue chip recruit by any means, but plenty of analysts circled his name as one to watch in Ann Arbor. He will start the year down the depth chart behind Cameron McGrone and Josh Ross, but odds are he can get some real snaps within the rotation.
Will Thomas be able to work his way into a regular contributor at linebacker?
Coming out of high school, Thomas was a little more raw than someone like McGrone, but he still came in with plenty of potential. He, too, drew comparisons to Devin Bush, which should be commonplace among all middle linebacker recruits going forward, but it does make sense given his size and skill set. For him to get to Bush’s level would be a long climb, but it is definitely within his range of outcomes.
Thomas has that explosiveness that coaches look for out of the Mike position, ready to blitz and attack with a violent impact. He is a good run defender and has enough speed to keep up with the many responsibilities of the role. How well he can perform in pass coverage will be something to watch, but he looks to have good recognition and football intelligence.
The path for playing time for Thomas really depends on how the Wolverines deploy the other linebackers. Ross is likely manning the Will position now that McGrone has fully taken over at Mike, and the Sam/Viper options are built a little differently than someone like Thomas. He seems like a great candidate for getting on the two deep at Mike given both his ability and the depth chart, though he may not start the season there.
The best case scenario is probably a modest 2020 season for Thomas, with rotational responsibilities and productive stints when called upon. If he can demonstrate his readiness and ability, it could very well set up a big 2021 after gaining some valuable experience this fall. Thomas has tons of potential and should be one to track, but there is nothing guaranteed about his opportunities or performance this season.