Miami football struggled offensively in 2018. The Hurricanes did not have a single receiver finish with over 600 yards. Jeff Thomas led the team in receiving yards with 563 yards, but he was dismissed before the end of the season.
The East St. Louis native was going to transfer to Illinois, but new head coach Manny Diaz changed his mind. The rising junior is one of the best playmakers in the country and will be a huge addition to the Hurricanes in 2019. Thomas has the speed to break a big gain at a moment’s notice, but was under utilized in Mark Richt’s offense.
Last season’s quarterback situation did not help Thomas as Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry both struggled throwing the ball down field. Rosier exhausted his eligibility, while Perry is in a three-way quarterback battle with redshirt freshman Jarren Williams and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell. Whichever quarterback wins the battle will have the best receiver in the ACC outside of Clemson.
Thomas is a quick-twitch athlete that uses his 5’10” 175-pound frame to perfection. He is quick getting into his breaks and runs precise routes outside the numbers. His return ability is elite and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
The Hurricanes will have a new offensive coordinator in former Alabama quarterbacks coach Dan Enos. The Crimson Tide had one of the best offenses in the country in 2018 with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa running the show. Enos developed Tagovailoa into a Heisman Trophy candidate and his experience with him should help Miami’s quarterbacks.
Tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory will benefit greatly from Enos’ new system as he employs a lot of two tight end sets in his offense. Thomas was on his way to having a breakout 2018 season, but his year was stunted by injuries and poor quarterback play. The rising junior needs to add a little more weight to his frame so that he could play a full season in 2019.
Thomas has the ability to gain 100 receiving yards in every game he plays with his combination of route running, speed, hands and athleticism. His first test of the season will be against Florida in Orlando. The Gators have one of the best secondaries in the nation and a strong showing from Thomas could lead him to a big 2019 season.
He dominated LSU in the season opener with 132 receiving yards on only five receptions. Thomas was able to get behind the Tigers’ defense frequently, but Rosier was unable to get him the ball. Miami’s poor offensive line play in 2018 did not help Thomas’ production and it is still an area of need for the Hurricanes.
Manny Diaz’s tenure in Miami got off to a good start when he convinced Thomas to stay at Miami. Playmakers like him are pretty rare and it would have devastating for the Hurricanes to lose him. Thomas has the pressure of being the Hurricanes’ top receiver, but Buffalo transfer K.J. Osborn will relieve some of that pressure.
Osborn had 53 receptions for 892 yards and seven touchdowns even with NFL-bound Anthony Johnson on the other side. Thomas has the ability to eclipse Osborn’s numbers from last season and should be a player to watch in 2019.