April 16, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Jemea Thomas was up to no good on the sideline the other day, giving a Georgia Tech media relations official a hard time. It was a sign of evolution, really, because when the soon-to-be senior defensive back was a freshman, he was so quiet as to seem invisible.
Now, Thomas is everywhere, and usually talking – or tweeting – at a high clip.
It’s been a process.
From Fitzgerald, Ga., to the Flats he came, and played right away. Thomas backed up Morgan Burnett in 2009, registering 10 tackles. Then, as a sophomore, he red-shirted.
After playing in all 13 games and starting two in 2011, he started all 14 last fall and was second-team All-ACC. He’s all, alright. Thomas has played cornerback, safety, nickel, returned kickoffs and punts . . . you name it.
He will, too, perhaps on Twitter. This guy is quite active on the social medium, and in fact was “threatening” that Tech staffer the other day to use the technology against him.
Wow, what changes we’ve seen in Jemea Thomas.
“I’m very comfortable now,” he said. “Coming in as a freshman, you’re like a deer in headlights and now . . . it comes natural.”
That’s true to a point.
New defensive coordinator Ted Roof is changing many things on that side of the ball, tweaking to the point where Thomas said he cannot with confidence suggest in detail how the Yellow Jackets will play this fall.
He was vague, in fact, when asked for specifics about Roof’s road to redemption for the Jackets.
“The scheme is going to be very different from what we were doing last year, although some concepts are the same,” Thomas said. “We’re putting it in package by package . . . putting stuff in little by little. I don’t know how much man and zone we’re going to play.”
Thomas is likely to play corner this fall, as the Jackets have greater depth at safety. Wherever he plays, the young man seems certain to show up in a big way.
Chiefly as a safety in ’12, he led the team in solo tackles with 61, was second on the team in total tackles (86) and led the Jackets with four interceptions. His seven career picks rank third among active ACC players.
Several Jackets are going to play in the secondary, where solid starters Thomas, Louis Young and Isaiah Johnson return. Younger players like Jamal Golden, Chris Milton, D.J. White and Lynn Griffin are pressing for time as well, and Fred Holton might factor if he can escape the injury bug.
Several of these guys are like peas in a pod.
As Thomas was trying to rough up that Tech staffer the other day, suggesting that he was going to incriminate him with a series of Twitter missives, Young, Johnson, David Sims and B.J. Bostic were among near-by spectators.
They were cackling like a battery of snickering Heckles and Jeckles.
Thomas was holding court, loving his little turn on the stage – albeit a small one. He’s a versatile and dynamic guy, although still capable of being caught off guard.
Asked later by a reporter whether his attempt was one of extortion or bribery, Jemea seemed surprised that the interrogator was aware of the little scheme, and even more stunned that he was being asked about it so as to shine light on the shenanigans.
Thomas, though, quickly figured out that the reporter was in a playful mood, just as he had been with the staffer. And, then, he framed a grown-up response and rolled with it, adapting quickly as he has so often.
“Ah, we have a good, established relationship,” he said. “That was a little of both [extortion and bribery]. Gotta keep ’em straight.”
Finally, Thomas laughed, which is not something that a deer would have done whether under lights or not.
To be crystal clear, Thomas and his co-horts were having fun with the Tech staffer, who had several good chuckles as well. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.