By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- TCI caught up with offensive lineman Brandon Thomas this week and spoke to him about his injury that he suffered during the game last weekend, how he’s adjusted to the starting role, and what it’s like to play under an energetic coach like Coach Swinney.
“I got hurt during the second half Saturday, my shoulder separated, they had to put a brace on it,” Thomas said. “My shoulder is too high, needs to be lower so that’s the problem.”
This injury was to a shoulder that Thomas had surgery on over the spring, so it’s something he’s suffered for a long time.
“I think everything’s fine now, after these interviews I’m going down to rehab some more on it.” Thomas said.
Thomas who started playing left guard when former starter David Smith was injured is starting to feel very comfortable in his new role.
“I’m feeling pretty good, I’ve gained a lot of confidence at that spot,” Thomas said. “I think I’ve sustained the spot, David is a great backup, but I’m feeling very confident in my play.”
Thomas has had to learn to play a little bit more physically after moving from left tackle to left guard.
“The guys are bigger that you’re going up against,” Thomas said. “Technique, everything, you’ve got to be more physical. You see a lot more at guard since you’re closer to the center also.”
Thomas isn’t sure where he’ll land next year, after the Tigers lose several of their starting offensive linemen, but he’s confident that he can play wherever the coaches put him.
“I can play both tackle and guard,” Thomas said. “It’s just wherever the coaches want me, that’s where I’ll go.”
The Clemson offense has continued to shock the world, putting up big numbers every week and Thomas believes that he and his offensive teammates are starting to gain some confidence because of it.
“We’re feeling pretty good about where our offense stands right now,” Thomas said. “We feel like we can line up and play against any team in the country.”
Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris has done everything he can to keep his offense a simple one so that the players won’t have to think when they’re on the field. How does it feel to be a part of the offense and be out on the field to watch it work?
“Being on the offensive side it feels great,” Thomas said. “I don’t know about the defensive side, I don’t know how they feel about it. But going from the offense that we had last year and coming into this offense and experiencing what we’re experiencing now, it feels great.”
Several times this season, Coach Swinney has spoken about Thomas and how there was a moment where he decided that he didn’t want to be just a good player but he wanted to be great. When was this moment for Thomas?
“It was probably five weeks ago, and a conversation at practice I had with Coach Swinney,” Thomas said. “David was hurt, and Coach Swinney just told me that it was time for me to step up. I was the only left guard that could and was willing to play that spot, so he just told me to step up. I think I’ve become a better player in practice, I still have a lot to work on but I’m continuing to improve.”
Clemson’s offense is leading the nation in number of plays run up to this point in the season with 626, so obviously the players are in better shape than they were last season. How else is the offense different?
“Well last year, we didn’t get very many plays off,” Thomas said. “This summer we ran our tails off knowing that there was a fast paced offense coming in here, we knew we had to get in shape. This offense I think we’ve gotten used to it, and we’re just running more plays than everybody else I guess.”
What’s Thomas’s way of keeping himself from getting sucked into the BCS rankings and all of the hype surrounding the Tigers?
“I try not to even turn on the TV because I know if I did I’d be turning to ESPN,” Thomas said. “I’d like to think we’re having a pretty good season, but I like taking everything one thing at a time, I try not to look ahead. I don’t even look at the schedule, I just come in here and someone will tell me, We’re playing Georgia Tech, so I’ll go study Georgia Tech. I don’t even know who we play next.”
Most players like Thomas on Clemson’s team have the same mindset because Coach Swinney has instilled into their brains that they can get beat if they aren’t focused.
Between the Gatorade Showers and the post game energetic messages, Thomas loves playing for a players’ coach like Coach Swinney.
“You have to be excited over a win, every win counts,” Thomas said. “I like seeing him like that. I like seeing him in the locker room dancing and stuff its fun when we’re winning. He’s a players’ coach, not just sitting back, he’s in the mix with us at all times. He likes to do the running man and the cabbage patch, so it’s always fun to win when you’re coach is that excitable.”