We're starting a new series as we look at each potential contributor on Michigan's roster in numerical order and look at what would be a stellar, standard and subpar season in 2020.
We start at No. 1 with rising senior cornerback Ambry Thomas.
As a returning starter, senior and natural leader, expectations are pretty high for a guy like Thomas. Because of that and because of how Thomas approaches the game, he could achieve a lot of success in his final season in Ann Arbor.
Last year, Thomas recorded 38 tackles including three for loss and picked off three passes. He also broke up seven other passes and recovered two fumbles.
So the question is, what kind of season would be considered stellar, standard and subpar for Thomas?
A stellar season for Thomas would be something similar to Jourdan Lewis' junior campaign. During that 2015 season, Lewis racked up 52 tackles including 3.5 for loss, a sack, two interceptions and a whopping 22 pass breakups. I think Thomas could get close to all of those numbers aside from the program record 22 pass breakups. That's just a massive number. If Thomas can play at that level, he'll be in the discussion for first-team All-Big Ten and different levels of All-American status like Lewis was. Thomas has the range, speed and experience to achieve those levels of success, but he'll have to remain healthy and be in the right place at the right time.
A standard season for Thomas would pretty much be a repeat of last year. Maybe just a slight uptick since I expect Thomas to be on the field a little bit more as a senior. Something like 40 tackles, three interceptions, 6-8 pass breakups and a fumble recovery or two needs to be what Thomas shoots for. He was a third-team All-Big Ten member per the coaches last year, so that needs to be the floor in terms of his postseason accolades in 2020.
A subpar season for Thomas would simply be any kind of step down from last year. With more playing time expected, he should at least finish the year as an All-Big Ten third team performer and with similar numbers to last season. If he finishes the year with less than 35 stops and less than four turnovers forced (interceptions and fumble recoveries combined), I'd chalk that up as a subpar campaign.
I fully expect Thomas to perform somewhere in between stellar and standard.
He's very likely going to play more than he did last year as the most experienced cornerback on the roster and should be in a position to make plays with another year of learning under his belt. Thomas has a knack for making plays and being around the ball so I expect him to be involved in several turnovers and it wouldn't surprise me to see him score at least one touchdown as a senior.
It's hard to imagine him really pumping his numbers up from last year because you just don't see that very often with cornerbacks, but we'll see how he's used and how much Don Brown switches up his defense in the next campaign.