His speed has shredded defenses two weeks into the season. His hands are like glue, snagging passes that look damn near impossible (thanks Malik). He’s seemed unguardable so far, taking LSU’s best shot and dominating even when his quarterback can’t get him the ball. No, we’re not talking about Ahmmon Richards; we’re talking about sophomore sensation Jeff Thomas.
With Richards sidelined by injury yet again, Thomas has been forced to step into the top receiver role for Miami and, while losing Richards is a blow, the sophomore receiver has proven himself to be every bit the playmaker Richards is supposed to be.
Coming into 2018, I wasn’t expecting a big jump from Jeff Thomas. He had a good 2017 and showed promise as a developing no. 2 option across from Richards. But his route running was a big work in progress and his hands were solid but not spectacular. He certainly didn’t make as many highlight grabs as he has just two games into 2018. I thought Thomas would ultimately be a very good complimentary receiver, a true deep threat who can take the top off of defenses and be an effective option on plays designed to get him the ball in space. I certainly never anticipated him developing into, not only a true no. 1 WR, but one of the top receivers in the nation.
So with Jeff Thomas annihilating defenses it begs the question, has he passed Ahmmon Richards? It’s hard to give any sort of definitive answer when we haven’t seen a healthy Ahmmon Richards for an extended period of time since 2016. For Richards, we simply haven’t been able to judge how much better his route running has gotten, how his hands have improved and in general if he has rounded out his game. Richards was always an elite deep threat but had yet to prove himself as an all-around receiver. The flashes were there in 2016 but the junior hadn’t put it together on a game to game basis. It’s impossible to tell how good of a receiver he is in 2018.
While Richards has become the unknown and Thomas’ improvements have been on display each week, it’s easy to look at the sophomore and say he has become the best WR on the roster. While Richards is injured that is an unarguable truth. Although we have yet to see a healthy Richards much this season, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say Thomas has surpassed him. Thomas has one leg up on Richards that no one can argue; availability. While Richards’ has nursed a multitude of maladies over two seasons, Thomas has played in every game. All the practice and offseason improvement doesn’t quite measure about to being able to play in games and get better in live fire situations.
Thomas, his growth and overall impact is on display. Whether the opponent is LSU or Savannah State, number four has shown the overwhelming speed and sticky hands to be a dominate force in the passing game. We see just how good he is. With Richards, we simply don’t know, and even worse, are forced to wonder if all these injuries piled up will make freshman Richards a superior player to the third year version.
It might be cheating to answer this article’s title with a definite “maybe.” But one thing that is certain is that Jeff Thomas and Ahmmon Richards on the same field, healthy, will make Malik Rosier’s job a whole lot easier.