After serving as the primary kick returner and a reserve safety his freshman season, Juanyeh Thomas became one of the starters at safety this past season. In short, his name wasn’t mentioned a lot, and that was a really good thing.
Here's where I apologize to GT for ranking them last at DB last season. Juanyeh Thomas allowed just 3.4 yards/attempt -- best by an ACC DB with 200+ snaps in coverage & his QBR of 12.4 trailed only Farley among DBs w/250 snaps in coverage.— Hi, I’m David (@ADavidHaleJoint) June 4, 2020
ESPN ACC reporter David Hale has been ranking each position group from the ACC. At defensive back, Tech came in at No. 7, which is one of the higher rankings Tech has been awarded by Hale. A large part of that is because of Juanyeh Thomas.
A hallmark of a good defensive back is how little you hear about them during a game. More often than not, if the broadcasters are mentioning a safety, it’s probably because a quarterback is picking on him.
Thomas finished last season with a modest stat line of 60 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble. As a kick returner, Thomas shared time with Tobias Oliver (due to the giant cast Thomas wore on his right arm for a portion of the season) after being the sole returner his freshman season, finishing with a 21-yard average on seven returns.
Going back to his freshman season, we saw some of the more explosive plays that Thomas is capable of that we missed last season. Let’s take a look at his two touchdowns:
Thomas’ pick-six against Louisville:
Here, Thomas lines up almost at linebacker and reads Louiville quarterback Jordan Travis like a book has Travis stares down the intended receiver from the snap. After easily picking it off, Thomas outruns a probably very unmotivated Louisville team to score this touchdown.
Thomas’ kick return for a touchdown against UGA:
Again, we see Juanyeh Thomas’ vision in action. UGA’s coverage team probably should have gotten him around the 10-yard line, but Thomas is able to cut and get around him. From there, he has one more move to get past a defender and then it’s a foot race, which Thomas is pretty solid at.
So we have seen what Thomas is capable of, but how does he take that next step? I think that not having a giant cast on his arm will definitely help, but honestly the best thing he can do is keep on doing what he’s doing. I would say he’s already one of the best safeties in the ACC, and by the end of the year, I don’t think I’ll be alone in thinking that (outside of Tech fans).