Montana State awaits return of defensive back Tyrel Thomas | national
Tyrel Thomas ran all over the place and defended the same way he did the past five years in Montana State training on Monday. His # 0 jersey is a welcome sight for the Bobcats.
Thomas, a senior defensive back, has been recovering from knee surgery since mid-August. He is one of MSU’s most veteran players, having started games since 2017. And for the first time this season he is expected to see the pitch.
MSU head coach Brent Vigen said on Monday the team expects Thomas to be back this week when the Bobcats (2-1) start the game against Big Sky at Portland State (1 -2) at 3:05 p.m. Saturday. He works to regain good conditioning, even if he is in good health, so his role may be limited. He’s online to see the time at nickelback, the position he was going to start at before his surgery, and cornerback.
MSU Free Security Jeffrey Manning Jr. was transferred from the state of Oregon in part to play with Thomas. They had known each other growing up in California. Ultimately, taking the field together, Manning said, would be “fireworks.”
“It will be a huge boost,” said MSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Freddie Banks.
MSU eagerly awaited Thomas’ return. He played a role in both Manning and Tre Webb, the solid Bobcats security who transferred from San Jose state this summer, choosing to move to Bozeman.
Manning said Thomas was “one of those people who, when he sees something and wants to, does it.”
âI love Tyrel,â added Webb. âHe plays so hard. I like the way he plays. He’s another guy you can plug in and play around the corner and nickel.
In 2019, Thomas totaled 42 tackles, which was the most among MSU cornerbacks. Between two interceptions and 12 breakage passes, his 14 defended passes were fifth in the Big Sky. In his sophomore year, although he missed four games with injury, he finished second on the team with six assists and recorded multiple tackles in every game he played.
His reputation among his teammates and his versatility are among the reasons Thomas was missed. Finding out he would be sidelined “injured,” Manning said. Webb noted that it was “really sad”.
âIt has always been our dream to play together. You never want to see one of your teammates fall, but seeing Tyrel fall, it touched me because I would think of him more as a brother, âManning said. “I can’t wait for him to come back with us.”
Webb noted that Thomas âlooked goodâ and recovered faster than anyone who had ever seen knee surgery.
Banks pointed out that Thomas had not taken time off. He attends meetings and trains during his rehabilitation.
Webb noted that Thomas had retained his sense of humor over the past month.
“You would definitely know if something was wrong with (Thomas) if he wasn’t making jokes and being himself, so he kept it up. I’m happy for him. He looks great.” said Webb, “I can’t wait to finally play with him.”
In the meantime, the Bobcats’ high school has excelled. In three games, the opponents have averaged 259.7 yards and 12 points per outing. MSU allowed 157 passing yards per game and just three total touchdowns in the air.
The Bobcats also recorded three interceptions, two by defensive backs. Manning landed an assist in Wyoming to open the season. Ty Okada, a junior playing nickelback since Thomas was out, and linebacker Troy Andersen returned interceptions for touchdowns last week against San Diego.
Okada has already played nickel in his career. He was originally going to line up safely at the start of fall camp. But with Thomas out and Webb transferred, Okada made the comeback.
Banks have said Okada will remain primarily at nickelback. So, the impact of Thomas’ return on the rest of high school is unclear.
According to Banks, anyone who meets the standards of the MSU coaching staff will see the pitch, even if that means the standouts briefly leave the game.
âThe more guys we have playing at a high level, the more guys we’re going to play no matter who it is,â Banks said. âIt just means more guys will be fresh at the end of the year. So it will add more depth and you will have more guys who can play and who are fresh and more disciplined.
Thomas will be used in multiple roles, Vigen said. The head coach was adamant during Okada fall camp and Thomas’s adaptable skills would be a boon for the Bobcats.
Thomas could see limited snaps on Saturday, despite having had a full workload in training. But Vigen has said Thomas’ role will expand as the season progresses.
âOnce we get 0 there,â Manning said, âhe’s just going to take us to a whole new level.â