March 12, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina second-year head football coach Mark Speir has completed his coaching staff as the team prepares for its annual spring drills. Speir has added former University of South Carolina lineman and assistant Dennis Thomas to the staff.
Thomas has spent the past four seasons working with the Gamecock football program at his alma mater under head coach Steve Spurrier while pursuing a Master's of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
"We're very excited about Dennis Thomas completing our 2013 football coaching staff," said Speir. "Dennis comes to us from the University of South Carolina which has enjoyed a lot of program success over the past several years. A highly motivated individual, he has worked the previous four years with arguably one of the best defensive front lines in all of college football. With that success they've had, he brings a lot of knowledge and new ideas to our program."
"A native of South Carolina and someone that has spent his entire coaching and playing career in the state, he brings in a lot of recruiting ties in the Palmetto State to our staff," Speir added.
Thomas has worked with the Gamecock defense, working with Assistant Defensive Line Coach Brad Lawing on the development of the defensive front under Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward. He additionally aided in the recruitment of players in South Carolina while assisting in the opponent scouting and computer breakdowns. USC made four-consecutive bowl game appearances while Thomas was working with the program including the 2013 Outback Bowl, 2012 Capital One Bowl, 2011 Chic-Fil-A Bowl and the 2010 Papa John's Bowl.
While at South Carolina, Thomas assisted with the development of current NFL players Melvin Ingram (San Diego Chargers), Cliff Matthews (Atlanta Falcons), Travian Robertson (Atlanta Falcons) and Clifton Geathers (Indianapolis Colts). He also worked with current Gamecock defensive end - and first team All-SEC and first team All-America selection - Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, another first-team All-SEC performer.
Prior to returning to his alma mater, Thomas spent five years coaching at Greenwood High in Greenwood, S.C., working with the defensive line on the gridiron as well as with the wrestling and track & field teams. He was a part of football region championships at GHS from 2004 through 2008. Under his guidance, the Eagles boasted the state of South Carolina's top-ranked defense in 2006, while finishing in the runner-up position defensively in 2007 and '08.
Thomas was a three-year letter winner at South Carolina from 1997 through 2001, playing along both the offensive and defensive lines under former USC and Notre Dame head coach, Lou Holtz. He was a part of the Gamecocks' 2001 Outback Bowl championship team, defeating Ohio State, 24-7.
A 2001 graduate from USC with a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology and a minor in physical education, Thomas began his coaching career at Calhoun Falls High School in Calhoun Falls, S.C. He served not only as the defensive line coach, helping CFHS to the regional championship in 2002, but also the strength & conditioning coach and an assistant with the track & field teams.
Western Carolina opens its 15 days of spring football practice on Wednesday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The drills will culminate with the annual spring game event on Saturday, April 20.