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Dabo Swinney: Brandon Thomas 'an Absolute Steal' for 49ers

Posted Aug 18, 2014

To examine the San Francisco 49ers 12-man NFL Draft class, 49ers.com checked in with a college coach of each pick. We continue our series with a promising offensive lineman.

To examine the San Francisco 49ers 12-man NFL Draft class, 49ers.com checked in with a college coach of each pick. We continue our series with…

Brandon Thomas will not play for the San Francisco 49ers in 2014.

But Thomas could play for the 49ers for many years beyond this one.

Thomas, the team’s third-round NFL Draft pick last May, tore the ACL in his right knee during an April workout for the New Orleans Saints.

As a result of his injury, the offensive lineman predictably slid down draft boards.

But Thomas’ college coach said he thinks his former left tackle will be “an absolute steal” for San Francisco.

“I’m excited because I felt like he was going to be a definite, easy second-rounder and unfortunate that he got hurt,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told 49ers.com over the phone from South Carolina. “For the 49ers, I think it speaks volumes of them to be confident enough in their evaluations to still take him early in the third round with his injury. Coach (Jim) Harbaugh and his staff are going to really love Brandon Thomas once he gets back out onto the field.”

Swinney also had this to say about the bright if beleaguered prospect…

First Impressions
“Brandon is a very reserved, simple, quiet guy,” Swinney said. “When you see him, you look at him with his glasses on – he looks like he just walked out of a library. Always clean-cut, very well dressed, very well spoken. Loves his mom and his sister. He’s not a rah-rah guy. He just goes about his business. To be honest, you would never even notice him. He’s a fly on the wall, but you notice him when he gets on the field. 

“We knew when he was in high school that he was special. He actually played a lot of tight end then. We were just blown away by his speed and athleticism and his ability to run.”

College Improvements
“During his redshirt year, we saw the talent, but I think he was enjoying college and the game was coming easily to him, but he wasn’t fully committed to the details of the game,” Swinney said. “About his sophomore year is when the light started turning on, where he I think he saw that he could be a great player. Then he started working the way that you need to work in order to be great. He also got focused on studying film and game planning. He took a lot of pride in the fact that we needed him to play both tackles and both guards that year, and he became a starter and then never looked back.

“He became our left tackle after that. He got better and better and better, and his junior and senior years were very consistent. He was the one guy we could count on every single week. We knew he was going to get his job done; we didn’t have to worry about him, and it didn’t matter who we were playing.” 

Greatest Strengths
“Athletic, versatile, powerful. One of the strongest players that we have had come through here and one of the most athletic and just versatile offensive lineman. He is by far the best guy that we’ve had on the offensive line since I’ve been a head coach,” said Swinney, who took the helm in 2008. “He started as a left tackle, played right tackle, left guard, right guard and, at some times, played two or three positions in a game. Not many guys can do that.”

Big Movement
“He had a bunch of those,” Swinney said. “He would be down the field on screens. When he was a guard, he could pull around. He did a great job on our ‘Power’ and our ‘Counter’ plays. And then when we put him in at tackle and told him, ‘Hey, you have to protect against these pass-rushers’ when we were playing at LSU or playing (Jadeveon) Clowney in South Carolina this year, he was awesome. We played South Carolina, gave him very little help, and he did as well as anybody at blocking Clowney, who was the No. 1 overall pick for a reason.”

NFL Expectations
“His versatility is why he’s going to be a great pro. I think he can legitimately play left tackle or right tackle,” Swinney said. “He’s got great length, athleticism, technique and power. A lot of times these (NFL) teams only dress seven or eight offensive line, and now you have a guy that can mentally function and play left guard and right guard – I think that puts him at a high premium in the NFL.

“Brandon will do everything he’s got to do to as quick as he can and be better than ever. There’s going to be big dividends for ‘BT.’ He’s a guy that can play in the league a long time. Just because of who he is as a person. He has a lot of the skills for the position, but there are a lot of people that have the skills for the position. He’s got the intangibles. He’s got the work ethic, the knowledge and the desire to compete.”

Coach's Advice
“Just enjoy the journey,” Swinney said. “It’s like starting over in college. Everybody is a freshman, and you go to the NFL and everyone is a rookie. Get yourself healthy, pull yourself into your rehab, pour yourself into the playbook and taking ownership of the system that you’re going to be playing in and let them see your commitment, just like I’ve seen it.”


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