The rush-stopping ability of the 2016 Red Raider defense was, at best, a swinging door. However the 2017 team virtually did a 180 with the rush defense and it came specifically from the effort of the defensive line. One powerful element of that line was none other than the finger-wagging fool Mychealon “BIG MYCH” Thomas.
5. Mychealon Thomas, DL (Preseason Rank: NR)
Often, the linemen on both sides of the ball are the unsung heroes of the team. When the offense or defense is firing on all cylinders, you can guarantee that the linemen are doing something right. For Texas Tech this season, Big Mych’s performance was anything but unnoticeable. Even though the official stat-line of 38 total tackles may seem unimpressive, Thomas made our opponent’s rush production an absolute disaster. His powerful presence upfront forced offensive guards and tackles to double-team him constantly - ultimately leaving a large gap for linebackers to blow up an unsuspecting backfield.
What set Big Mych apart, aside from his swagger on the field, was his ability to create unlikely turnovers. Coach Gibbs worked hard throughout the offseason to implement a turnover hungry mindset and Thomas contributed to three on the year (2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception). In the game against Arizona State, Thomas had a substantial fumble recovery early on:
After proving to be a juggernaut against the Sun Devil’s offensive line, Thomas put a nail in the coffin of the first half with a big sack against ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins. Domination up front, squeezing through the line, and breaking open to find a panicked quarterback were just another day at the office for Thomas. The speed that Big Mych came after Wilkins with is a quarterback’s absolute worst nightmare.
Yes, defensive linemen will get sacks and fumble recoveries. But what if I told you that they could get interceptions too? Now that’s a well rounded athlete. When Kansas State came to town, Big Mych made sure not to let off the throttle. Late in the second quarter, Kansas State was sitting around the Texas Tech 40 yard-line trying to go up by 10 before the half. On 2nd and 10, the Wildcat QB Alex Delton tossed it down the middle but it barely made it past the line before DT Eli Howard got his paw on it. As heads-up as it gets, Thomas noticed the deflection and got under the ball for an interception and kept Tech within 3 going into the third quarter.
Mychealon Thomas’ production this year was indicative of a defensive revival underneath the leadership of David Gibbs. His independent effort on top of that has landed him at number five on our top fifteen of the year. There’s no reason to expect that Big Mych is anything less than a special player with a high ceiling.
As a senior, this is Thomas’ last year as a collegiate football player. After the bowl game on December 23rd expect to hear about Big Mych’s decision to enter the NFL draft for 2018. His speed, strength and awareness on the defensive side of the ball make Mychealon Thomas a strong candidate among the other defensive linemen in this year’s draft. However, I do not expect for Thomas to be drafted early on - it is probable that he is either a late rounder or an undrafted free agent. But do not sleep on Big Mych because we all know there is a NFL coach who has had Thomas’ name come across his desk.