Name: Ambry Thomas
Weight: 182 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) King
Jersey number: #1
Last year: I ranked Thomas #11 and said he would be a starting corner by the end of the season with 15 tackles and 1 interception (LINK). He made 38 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and 7 pass breakups.
TTB Rating: 90
Thomas had a rough go of it in the lead-up to the 2019 season, coming down with colitis that caused him to lose weight and put his season in jeopardy. He was not on the 110-man roster to start fall camp . . . and yet somehow he was ready to start game one against Middle Tennessee.
And he started off with a bang, too, making 1 tackle, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery in that season opener. He added interceptions against Iowa and Michigan State, too. Coaches in the conference took notice, naming him Third Team All-Big Ten for the year. And he was named the team’s Defensive Skill Player of the Year over the more recognized Lavert Hill and a safety who got drafted, Josh Metellus.
Michigan was set to have another lockdown corner returning in 2020 . . .
. . . and then COVID-19 hit.
Thomas opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, citing his bout with colitis as the main factor. That has left the Wolverines scrambling to find a second cornerback. For several years, Michigan has just reloaded at cornerback, but the remaining ammunition might be full of blanks. Vincent Gray was a constant contributor in 2019, but nobody seems to have taken a stranglehold at the other spot. Numerous names have been rumored to lead, including Gemon Green, D.J. Turner, and Jalen Perry. Daxton Hill would probably start at corner if he wanted to do it, and former safety Sammy Faustin has been bumped over to corner for more depth and competition.
Naturally, Michigan opens up against Minnesota and Rashod Bateman, one of the top few receivers in the conference. Michigan’s pass rush might hit home and help out the back end, but Thomas’s absence will be felt throughout the season. I have faith that Mike Zordich will coach the corners as well as anyone can, but things could get ugly against the better passing teams on the schedule.
If you’re taking notes, Michigan is missing the #2 most important player (Thomas), the #5 guy (Nico Collins), and the #10 guy (Dylan McCaffrey), although McCaffrey had clearly become less important than I had estimated.
Prediction: Leaving for the NFL draft