Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thomas Gordon, #30

Thomas Gordon
Gordon attended Detroit (MI) Cass Tech and was a 3-star athlete in the 2009 class, ranking as Rivals' #24 player in the state of Michigan. He committed to the Wolverines on September 26, 2008, over offers from Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Michigan State, and Toledo. Here's a link to my first post on him, the 2009 Countdown post that predicted a redshirt.

Despite a horrible defense in Michigan's 5-7 season in 2009, Gordon remained sidelined while learning the safety position. As what amounted to a 4-2-5 box safety in 2010, Gordon broke out a little bit with 23 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks; his sacks came against Notre Dame and Penn State, but he was underused throughout the year. His redshirt sophomore year saw a jersey number change (from #15 to #30) and the hiring of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who put Gordon at free safety, where he notched 67 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries in what would turn out to be his most productive season. He had another solid season as a redshirt junior in 2012 with 81 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. Some expected him to be a senior captain in 2013, but he got himself suspended for the season opener and saw his overall production drop to 58 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. His senior year included an odd game in which he had 0 tackles and 2 interceptions against Indiana.

38 starts, 229 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 6 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries


People had some doubts about Gordon when he first committed because he was small, pretty inexperienced at defensive back, and lacking in quality scholarship offers. A generic 3-star recruit, he turned out to be perhaps the best Michigan player out of Cass Tech in recent years, a group that includes 5-star William Campbell, 4-stars Royce Jenkins-Stone and Boubacar Cissoko, and several 3-star prospects. (There are a couple young guys on the roster who I'm not considering here due to their youth.) Gordon didn't seem to develop appreciably over the years, but he played pretty consistently throughout his career. He was a solid tackler who was always around the ball, reeled in a good number of turnovers, and finished his career tied for 25th all-time with 6 interceptions (along with Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Clarence Thompson, Donovan Warren, Garland Rivers, Mike Mallory, Doug Mallory, and a few others). Michigan's safeties over the last 20 years have been decent at times (Jamar Adams, Tommy Hendricks, Marcus Ray, Marlin Jackson for a bit, Earnest Shazor, etc.), but Gordon combined with Jordan Kovacs for some of the most solid safety play we've seen in Ann Arbor in a long time.

. . . his one-handed interception against Eastern Michigan in 2011. After almost another three full seasons, that's still the lasting image I have of Gordon. Out of a quads formation, EMU threw a double pass as Gordon remained disciplined and looking for something tricky. The ball sailed over the head of the intended receiver while Gordon reached up with his right hand to snag it cleanly out of the air at the goal line. (You can watch the video here.)

Gordon was not invited to the NFL Combine but had an impressive pro day on Michigan's campus earlier this month. He ran a 4.49 forty, showed off a 40.5" vertical, broad jumped 10'5.5", and ran a 20-yard shuttle in 4.10 seconds. Those measurements would have made him one of the top safeties at the Combine. Unfortunately, aside from the interception described above, his play was rarely spectacular. The 5'11", 210 lb. Gordon is limited to safety and doesn't display the playing speed (despite his 40 time) NFL teams probably look for in a free safety, so his best chance is to be a strong safety type who can play in the box a little bit. I've always thought Gordon looks like a good fit in a Cover Two scheme like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used to run, but the explosion of pass-heavy offenses means that the once-successful scheme has been abandoned as a base defense by coordinators who used to run, although it's still used at times. Anyway, Gordon is unlikely to be drafted, but he should get signed as an undrafted free agent and will have a chance to make a go of it. I think he might find himself on a practice squad or maybe an active roster for a few years.


  1. After seeing Stevie Brown excel at the S position in the NFL with my own two eyes, I won't count anybody out anymore.

    Would you consider Gordon to be similiar to Brown in terms of athleticism?

    1. Gordon's pro day results notwithstanding, I saw Brown as faster, stronger, and more aggressive than Gordon. Brown was a cornerback/safety 'tweener coming out of high school, and he always had the speed/athleticism to excel. He just seemed to be lacking the mental aspect of the game until his senior year and then the NFL.

  2. I think Gordon's pro day will have someone pick him up in the 7th round.

    Not expecting a Stevie Brown type impact in the NFL, but I could see him stick around for a few years.