Lovie Smith just picked up the biggest addition to his team since taking over the program in 2016.
On Friday night, Miami wide receiver transfer Jeff Thomas announced his decision to join the Fighting Illini, and will pursue a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately in 2019 with two years of eligibility.
I would like to thank The University of Miami, my teammates, coaches for their amazing support the past 2 years. With that being said, I would like to thank Coach Lovie smith for this opportunity to further my education and football career at the University of Illinois. pic.twitter.com/mnJHUMiQ8b
— Jeff Thomas (@theregoes4) December 22, 2018
Thomas, a former four-star prospect and the No. 5 overall receiver from the 2017 recruiting class, went to East St. Louis High School — just a few hours drive from Champaign. He chose Miami over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, Florida State and Illinois, among others.
“Jeff Thomas is an elite level football player who we expect to make an immediate impact with the Fighting Illini program,” Smith said in a press release. “We know he is excited to return to his home state. This continues a string of great players from East St. Louis coming to the University of Illinois. We recruited Jeff extremely hard out of high school, and when he contacted us about the possibility of returning home, we were immediately interested in making his wishes come true. We will fully support his efforts for immediate eligibility at Illinois.”
In two seasons with the Hurricanes, Thomas caught 52 receptions for 937 yards (18.0 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. He also averaged an impressive 22.4 yards per punt on nine returns in 2018, including one touchdown return.
He’s easily one of the fastest players in all of college football, giving the Illini a proven, explosive player to plug into the offense and on special teams immediately.