In football, speed kills. But at Miami, you’re supposed to be fast. The Hurricanes lived up to this expectation and got a premier deep threat when Jeff Thomas committed back in 2017. A 4-star receiver from the state of Illinois, Thomas was the 40th best player and 5th best receiver in the class. He was also regarded as one of the fastest, recording a 4.38 40-yard dash in high school. It seemed like the ceiling for Thomas was to be a Phillip Dorsett-type; a field-stretching vertical threat who could be a no. 1 receiver but still had limits at just 5’10” and 170 pounds. In just two seasons of play, he’s proven to be even more than that.
As a freshman, Thomas was able to flash in limited reps but still looked more like a one-trick pony than a legit gamechanger. He had 17 receptions for 374 yards and 2 TDs, good enough for an absurd 22 yards per catch average. Then came 2018, when Thomas had less competition with Braxton Berrios and Chris Herndon moved on, and Ahmmon Richards suffering a career-ending injury one reception into the year.
Thomas put on a show against LSU, appearing to be the only Cane who suited up and looked capable of doing anything against a big-time Tigers’ defense. He had 5 receptions for 132 yards, both career highs, and made circus catch after circus catch trying to adjust to Malik Rosier’s throws.
The sophomore continued to produce despite the Miami offense growing stagnant as the year continued on, growing understandably frustrated when he wasn’t getting touches. For someone who could score a touchdown whenever he touched the ball, he wasn’t being treated like it. Late in the season, Thomas clashed with Mark Richt and in November it was announced that he would be leaving the program to transfer elsewhere. He ended the season with 35 receptions for 563 yards and 3 TDs. He also added 221 yards and a touchdown on 9 punt returns.
Fast forward to mid-January; Richt is out, Manny Diaz is in, and Jeff Thomas returns after flirting with a transfer to the University of Illinois. Now, Miami has a new playcaller to properly incorporate arguably their most exciting playmaker into the offense.
There’s really only one question Jeff Thomas will need to answer - will he be able to handle adversity better this season? The team has welcomed him back with open arms and, as far as anyone has heard, Thomas has not clashed with anyone over his temporary leave in 2018. And for all we know, the locker room could’ve sided with the talented young receiver over Mark Richt. But other than the off-the-field, we know what Thomas can do on it.
He gets to be the focal point of this offense, the best player among these 11 and arguably the most talented guy on the entire roster. Thomas has CB-torching speed, dependable hands, solid route-running guile and a knack for making spectacular, circus catches. He can be a no. 1 WR, and will be this season, and a field-flipping punt returner.
Thomas should be able to generate some solid numbers, even in an offense that has several mouths to feed. 50 receptions, 900 yards and 5 TDs seem like realistic expectations in 2019.