Tackle or guard? That's the big question for Clemson's Brandon Thomas
INDIANAPOLIS - Where Brandon Thomas will launch his professional career might depend heavily upon where he lines up on the football field.
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The good news for the two-time first-team all-ACC offensive lineman from Clemson is he's willing and able to play tackle or guard.
"I do not have a preference," said Thomas, here for the NFL Scouting Combine. "I am more comfortable at tackle, though, because of course these last two seasons, I've been playing tackle. I haven't really had as much playing time at guard."
But he's not completely green at guard. Thomas started nine games at left guard his sophomore year - including the 2011 ACC Championship Game and 2012 Orange Bowl - and finished his freshman year with reps at left guard, after logging early 2010 snaps at both tackle spots.
Thomas was a nomad at Dorman High School in Spartanburg, too: guard his freshman and sophomore years, tackle his junior year, and tight end and fullback his senior year.
"I've played (guard) before and I think I can still play it," Thomas said. "But it's just gonna take some time."
NFL teams aren't quite sure what to do yet with Thomas, either. They'll glean some information this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"Some teams, you're hearing you're definitely a guard, but then some other teams, they say we'll try you out at tackle; if that doesn't work, we'll move you to guard," Thomas said. "They kind of see me as both. They see me as a leverage guard that can move his feet so they can move me out to tackle. They just want to see how I perform out there."
Thomas will engage in timing and agility sessions Sunday, which could help scouts peg him at a particular position. More so than his body type (official Combine measurements: 6-3, 317 pounds) and intelligence, the decisions might come down to fit, which varies team by team.
But Thomas is fully prepared to excel at either position.
"Basically, out there (at tackle) you have to have quick feet and good hips," Thomas said. "But inside (at guard), you have to be strong and have a solid base."
So where might Thomas be selected in the NFL draft?
"I think Brandon Thomas is a second- or third-round (option)," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said last week.
"He was a left tackle who played well, and did a good job at the Senior Bowl practices. He could play as guard, and be a great guard, a Pro Bowl guard."
Thomas won't let himself get too concerned with how long he'll wait to hear his name called the second week of May.
"A lot of people ask me what round I should go in and what round I'm kind of hoping for," Thomas said. "Honestly, it doesn't matter what round you're picked up at, because everybody has to make the team, you know? Everybody has to play hard when you get to camp and make the team. You can be drafted in the fifth round and you might make the team; that third-rounder might not make the team."