Bigger, stronger, faster. Those are the goals for Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas, who announced over the weekend that he would return to Stanford for another season.
"Chase is a leader," said co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "He's great on the pass rush and with his hands. The next thing will be him putting on the size to do it all of the time and getting a little more weight. He's done a good job building himself into a very good player. If he continues on that progression, we'll be in good shape."
Thomas, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection, led the Cardinal with 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss this season. He led the conference in tackles for a loss and was second in sacks. He also forced a team-high five fumbles and totaled 52 tackles. But those numbers weren't enough to lure him into the NFL draft. At least, not yet.
"It took a lot of thought," Thomas said in a released statement through the school, noting that there would be no further comment. "Each day I leaned in a different direction but when it came down to my gut, I knew what I wanted to do. I love my school and my teammates and we have unfinished business."
Stanford's season ended on a sour note with an overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. News of his return, which first came via Twitter, provided a much-needed bright spot following the heart-breaking loss, compounded with the announcements that offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin would join quarterback Andrew Luck in the NFL draft.
Tarver, obviously, is excited that Thomas will be returning and said he's looking for more consistent, dominant play from the 6-foot-4, 240-pound pass-rush specialist.
"The best thing that he does is destroy and defeat blockers and use his hands," Tarver said. "His ability to destroy blockers and not stay blocked is the best thing. Everyone gets blocked, it's whether you stay blocked or not. Hopefully his strength will continue ... if he can improve on those things, and show it all of the time and if he makes the same jump he's made every year he's been at Stanford after coming in as a 205-pound freshman, he'll be fine."
Thomas will also have the benefit of growing in a 3-4 scheme that is very similar to those used by NFL teams. That will give him a leg up when his time comes, Tarver said.
"We use the same terminology and a lot of the same techniques that a lot of the NFL 3-4 and 4-3's use," said Tarver, who had previously been with the San Francisco 49ers since 2001 -- the last five coaching the outside linebackers. "Another year in the system is only going to help him. We like to think that our defense can highlight guys like Chase -- not just on the outside, but at all positions. The NFL guys can see players do exactly what they are going to be asked to do at the next level. That's something we pride ourselves on. Putting these guys in spots to, No. 1, make plays. We want everyone to be productive. That's the bottom line. And No. 2, in our scheme, you get to see everybody do everything."