At Miami, second-year coach Mark Richt has enough talent in his backyard to build an ACC powerhouse. But on National Signing Day, he reached into the Midwest to pluck one of the nation’s top wide receivers. Four-star Jeff Thomas announced in a televised ceremony on Wednesday that he will play for the Hurricanes.
The East St. Louis Senior (Ill.) School standout had identified Illinois as the leader in his recruitment in early January, but Miami overtook the Illini in the lead up to Feb. 1. Thomas announced a top three comprising the Oregon, Louisville and Miami and took an official visit to Coral Gables later in January.
In Thomas, the Hurricanes are getting an explosive pass-catcher who excels at eluding defenders in tight quarters and ripping off big chunks of yards after the catch. As a senior at East St. Louis this season, Thomas hauled in 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. No player showed better than Thomas at the Under Armour All-America Game last month. The diminutive (5’10”, 167 pounds) playmaker recorded two touchdown catches and set a record with 148 receiving yards.
With several highly regarded prospects on its board entering signing day, Miami could come away as one of Wednesday’s biggest winners. It already added St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High three-star wide receiver Michael Harley. But Thomas ensures the day will be a success even if a few of the Hurricanes’ targets head elsewhere.
Thomas can pair with second-team All-ACC wideout Ahmmon Richards, a four-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Wellington (Fla.) High, to give the Hurricanes one of the better wide receiver tandems in the ACC. That concentration of perimeter skill talent no doubt will help smooth Miami’s transition from star quarterback Brad Kaaya, who’s headed to the NFL draft.
In a more general sense, Thomas’s decision manifests Miami’s rising stature under Richt. Pulling a recruit like Thomas from Big Ten country is a remarkable feat, and other prospects, both within talent-rich South Florida and beyond, are sure to take notice.
This is not to suggest Thomas is the only big fish Miami reeled in this cycle. On offense, he joins three other Scout 300 prospects in Miami Central (Fla.) High four-star offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson, American Heritage (Fla.) High four-star offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert and Vanguard (Fla.) High four-star quarterback N’Kosi Perry. The Hurricanes also are adding three top 250 defensive prospects in Luther Burbank (Calif.) High four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson, Christopher Columbus (Fla.) High four-star safety Trajan Bandy and Lake Worth Community (Fla.) High four-star defensive end Jonathan Garvin.
Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Thomas:
Fast, explosive athlete who has outstanding burst, acceleration and ability to cut while moving full speed. Creates a lot of separation with that and is not only a deep threat, but a guy who can take short passes and go the distance at any time. He is also an excellent return man. He is not a big receiver and currently must get stronger to supplement his speed and athleticism.