Jeff Thomas is transferring to Illinois, per Illini Inquirer’s Jeremy Werner.
Thomas, out of East St. Louis, spent two years with Miami where the speedy receiver proved to be a real threat both in the slot and as a punt returner. He caught 35 passes for 563 yards and three touchdowns in his sophomore season. He also returned a punt for a touchdown and averaged 24.6 yards on punt returns — lord knows Illinois needs help there.
“We have high standards for excellence, for conduct and for the commitment to team for all of the young men who wear our uniform, and we will not waver from those standards,’’ head coach Mark Richt said Wednesday afternoon in a released statement. “We wish Jeff the very best as he moves forward in his journey.’’
Rumors were that Thomas clashed with coaches at Miami, ending with him missing practices and meetings. He was eventually dismissed from the team.
Thomas was featured in the 2017 documentary 89 Blocks, which focused on the 2016 East St. Louis Flyers football team. Thomas was suspended from a game after missing multiple practices and his teammates voted on if Thomas should be allowed to stay on the team.
Jeff Thomas was ranked a four-star recruit in the class of 2017 and was a top-50 recruit and the second-best in Illinois, according to 247 Sports. He was recruited by Illinois out of high school.
Thomas will have to sit out one season and will have two years of eligibility to use, starting in 2020.
Illinois needs playmaking and speed at wide receiver and desperately needed someone to make plays in the slot receiver role. Thomas can fill that gap and be a very useful player in the screen passing game and as a punt returner. This is a big get for Illinois, and we will have to hope that Lovie Smith and his staff can build a better relationship with him than Mark Richt and the Miami coaches were able to.