Nov 16, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Earnest Thomas III (9) defends Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Devin Smith (9) on a pass during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini Football 2014 Player Profile: Earnest Thomas III

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There’s no doubt that the defensive side of the ball was the weakest side for the Illinois Fighting Illini in 2013.

No matter what Illinois’ defense did in 2013, Big Ten opponents walked all over them.

Illini Nation is hoping that the defense gets a lot better in 2014. Because of that, we continue our 2014 Illinois Fighting Illini football player previews with senior defensive back Earnest Thomas III.

Fast Facts:

  • Position: Defensive Back
  • Hometown: Orchard Lake, Michigan
  • High School: St. Mary’s
  • Measurements: 6-foot-2, 210 lb.
  • Age at 2014 season opener: 22
  • Games played: 32
  • Cumulative stats: 176 total tackles, 4 tackle-for-loss, 6 forced fumbles

2013 Season:

  • Games played: 12
  • Cumulative stats: 101 total tackles, 57 solo tackles, 44 assisted tackles, 2 tackle-for-loss, 7 broken up passes, 2 passes defended, 3 force fumbles

This offseason, the Illinois Fighting Illini lost some pretty big names on the defensive side of the ball, but there’s none greater than their leading tackler from last season, Jonathan Brown.

As a junior in 2013, Earnest Thomas III was second of the team in total tackles with 101 (right behind Jonathan Brown). Because of this, most Illini fans are expecting Thomas to lead the team in tackles this upcoming season.

Thomas also led the Illini secondary in broken up passes and defended passes. However, he had a string of eight games where he didn’t defend a single pass. Oh, he also had zero interceptions.

It’s been proven that Earnest Thomas III has a nose for the football and knows how to make tackles. The only improvement that Thomas needs to make in 2014 is becoming more of a consistent defender against the pass.

If he can do that, he could prove to be a valid defensive back and leader for this year’s Illini defense.

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