In a stunning turn of events, and a day after telling an Illinois Beat Writer than he was heading to Champaign to play for the Fighting Illini, WR Jeff Thomas is coming back to/staying with the University of Miami!
This is a stunning reversal, kind of like the ones Thomas made when returning punts in 2017. After being dismissed/leaving the team in November, Thomas decided to look around and settled on Illinois for his next destination. Thomas reportedly signed a non-biding grant-in-aid agreement, but that obviously didn’t mean he had to leave.
After internal discussions reportedly led Thomas to feel as though he wasn’t fully wanted back at Miami, he told Bob Asmussen of The Gazette that he was going to be heading up to Illinois to enroll in classes this week.
But, obviously, things changed in the last 24 hours.
Instead of heading elsewhere, Thomas will return to the Canes, and immediately upgrades the depth and talent at the WR position. Thomas is one of the most electric playmakers in America, and was averaging nearly 28 yards per catch through the first 3 games of the year. Thomas was also a factor on special teams, with several long returns on the year, averaging 24.56 yards per punt return with a TD to his credit, and averaging nearly 22 yards per kick return, as well.
But, things started to deteriorate over time. Thomas was displeased with the state of the Canes’ offense, particularly the QB play — something that caused his otherworldly numbers to quickly come back to earth — and reportedly ran afoul of Mark Richt’s strict punctuality rules. Those are events, and likely other small infractions along the way, put Thomas at odds with the coaching staff, and his displeasure with how things were going led him to leave/be dismissed (the semantics really don’t matter to me).
After being hired as Head Coach, Manny Diaz said when asked that “all players have a clean slate”. Most assumed that was directed towards QB N’Kosi Perry, who had been suspended during the 2018 season and recently had a NSFW video from his social media leak. It seems, however, that Diaz’s statement also extended to Thomas, and was part of the foundation leading to Thomas’s return to the Canes program today.
The importance of this development cannot be overstated. Miami needs depth and talent at WR, and there are few players as talented and fast anywhere in the country as Jeff Thomas. With a new OC, and a new offense overall, one that OC Dan Enos says will “work to get players the ball in space”, Thomas’s immense skills will be put to good use.
This obviously sucks for Illinois, who thought they were getting one of the most talented and dynamic players in the country to join their roster. But, instead, Jeff Thomas is staying at The U.
I love it.