Devon Thomas’ time as a Cowboy didn’t last long.
While he remains on the roster posted at the university’s official website, it’s only a matter of time before coach Mike Gundy announces that Thomas is gone from the program, right?
Felony complaints against Thomas have mounted since his arrest last week. Armed robbery. Shooting with intent to kill. Kidnapping. First-degree burglary. Conspiracy to commit a felony in what has been described as “an armed heist.”
Bad, bad stuff.
Gundy has a track record of acting swiftly to rid trouble from his program and his locker room. And no situation has been as troubling as this.
Truth is, for OSU, taking Thomas always represented taking a risk.
On and off the field.
As a skilled running back, he produced a superb sophomore season at Broken Arrow, rushing for 1,840 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore. But he never came close to duplicating those numbers, failing even to match them in his final two seasons combined.
And rumors of trouble surfaced around him, with a suspension — for still unspecified reasons — limiting his junior season and raising warning flags.
Thomas was once committed to Oklahoma, but the Sooners backed off, for whatever reason. And Thomas flipped his pledge to the Cowboys before his senior year.
Somehow, Thomas maintained a premium prospect status with ESPN.com and Scout.com, carrying a four-star rating into OSU. And that was through a senior season in which many who watched him claimed him out of shape and less than motivated.
But here’s how coaches often think: “There’s talent in there somewhere. We can unlock it.”
Coaches like to believe, too, that they can rescue troubled kids, even save them. It’s a noble premise.
But it comes with risk, sometimes major risk.
That was the thought process with Prentiss Elliott, who was recruited by a Les Miles staff that included Gundy. Elliott possessed mad skills, but also came with baggage and a history of violence. Cowboys coaches believed he was a good kid who had become a victim of his surroundings. And they thought they could help him by pairing him with their highest-character players as roommates, guys who would mentor and guide Elliott off the field.
Didn’t work. Away from Stillwater, trouble found Elliott, or he found it. And sometimes trouble came to Stillwater, leading to a Gundy dismissal of his most electric playmaker in one of his first big acts as a head coach.
Coaches haven’t suggested they viewed Thomas as the same off-the-field risk. And as a player, he made great strides in the spring, after enrolling early, getting into shape and making an impression in practices.
That risk, the football risk, seemed to be paying off.
The bigger risk has betrayed them.