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'Oklahoma' in debut


He was one of the stars of mini-camp. All through spring drills he flashed speed, quickness and the scouts puffed out their chests. This evening we may find out what Benard Thomas can do with the pads on.

"He had a good beginning in shorts," coach Jack Del Rio said of Thomas, an undrafted free agent from Nebraska who, some think, could be this year's training camp sensation. "I'm excited to see him in pads. You want to see if he's a lightbulb that burns out or if he can sustain it," Del Rio added of the rookie defensive end.

Thomas is not the kind of young man to whom you want to express doubt. He'll stare a hole in you. He'll flash you a menacing mouth of gold teeth.

What if the kid can really play? Oh, yeah.

"I'm not here trying to make the team. I'm here to start," Thomas said with a stare; make that a glare.

"Don't take offense to this – please, don't take offense to this – but why weren't you drafted," the reporter asked, pressing his luck for the sake of his profession.

"I don't know. I'm 275, I've got good feet, good hands. I'm here to prove my doubters wrong," Thomas countered.

Thomas had a fruitful, if not significant, career at Nebraska. He played a lot of games and came on as a senior with four sacks and 15 quarterback pressures. There appeared, however, to be more left in his tank. Scouts looked at his 6-4, 273-pound physique and saw upside. They clocked his quickness and dreamt of what Thomas might become in the pro game. Maybe, this evening, we'll get a glimpse of that.

Del Rio wouldn't say whether or not Thomas will be one of the invited few who will participate in this evening's "Oklahoma," a football right of passage that pits blocker against tackler in a between-the-dummies drill that includes a ball-carrier and a ball. It's a thump drill.

"We'll have a few invited participants in the 'Oklahoma,'" Del Rio said.

Who will they be? You'll have to be there to find out. Look for the two dummies on the ground. That'll be the stage.

Thomas flashed again this morning. He went up against second-round draft pick Khalif Barnes a couple of times.

"He's an explosive, powerful guy. It'll be interesting to see how he progresses through padded practices," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "He's got some very good measurables. He's just got to get familiar with our system."

Thomas could make a strong position even stronger. The Jaguars added free agents Reggie Hayward and Marcellus Wiley in the offseason, welcome the return of Paul Spicer and expect big things from second-year man Bobby McCray, last summer's training camp sensation. Another undrafted guy, Jim Davis, has also turned heads.

It all could make for an exciting summer at the position, and the excitement could begin this evening when the Jaguars put the pads on for the first time since they finished last season.

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