Kris Kocurek might be key to unleashing Solomon Thomas' potential


Solomon Thomas has had a challenging first two seasons in the NFL, both on the field and off, but 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek sees his potential and has a plan to unlock it. 

“Obviously last year was a rough year,” Kocurek said. “He had to go through a lot of stuff. It’s not easy on a player in any position, but he overcame it, and he’s going to be stronger because of it. 

“At the time, it’s kind of hard for him to see, but Solomon has been working extremely, extremely hard. One of the hardest workers we have.” 

Kocurek watched film of Thomas before meeting him and knew right away that the Stanford product was thinking too much and needed to get out of his head. It’s something that even Thomas realized he needed to let go of.

“Based on what you see on film, Solomon is always a guy that wants to try to get everything exactly right,” Kocurek said. “What I did want to do is try to simplify things, and take so much information that’s coming into his brain and just narrow things down, and get him to play as fast as he possibly can.

“Knowing that mistakes are going to be made along the way, I want the mistakes to be made playing fast and aggressive, not thinking too much and paralyzing yourself as a player. He’s taken to it and he’s doing a really, really good job.”

Adding speed on the edge with Dee Ford and Nick Bosa only will help Thomas moving forward this season. From what Kocurek has seen, the 2017 No. 3 overall pick isn't limited to playing on the inside.

“When I looked at him, you see a player that has versatility that can play outside and in certain situations you can slide him inside and utilize his quickness and speed," Kocurek said. "I didn’t want to take that out of him in a way, because he is a versatile player.” 

[RELATED: Ryans sees new energy in 49ers' linebacker room this year]

Kocurek has admired Thomas’ drive from when they first met in Santa Clara. That energy has not wavered and Kocurek believes Thomas is set for a marked improvement in his third season. 

“Since the day I arrived here, I’ve seen a player with a chip on his shoulder,” Kocurek said. “I’ve seen a player with a look in his eye that he’s ready to take that next step.

“Solomon is still a young player. He’s going into his third year. They say NFL players usually take the biggest jump from their second to their third year. And based off the way he’s been working, from the day I got here, whether it be in the classroom, film study, in the weight room, and then on the practice field, he’s got that look in his eye he’s ready to get better.”

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