UI brings Thomas back

Idaho also appears ready to appoint BYU graduate assistant Ed Lamb as its new defensive coordinator.

Joel Thomas, Idaho's all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns, has a new challenge: to mold players to perform the way he did at UI.

Thomas, 27, was hired as Idaho's new running backs coach Tuesday. He spent the last two years as a graduate assistant working with tight ends at Purdue.

"I feel like a freshman again being back here, starting a new chapter in my coaching life and also my Vandal life," Thomas said.

Idaho also appears ready to appoint BYU graduate assistant Ed Lamb as its new defensive coordinator. An official announcement is expected next week.

Lamb, a former BYU and Ricks College defensive lineman, was defensive coordinator at University of Redlands (Calif.) for three years before rejoining his alma mater this season.

Thomas replaces his former position coach Todd Hoiness, one of three coaches fired by head coach Tom Cable after a 1-10 season. Hoiness called Thomas to recommend he pursue the job.

"It helped me a lot when he called and told me about the position and to go after it," Thomas said of Hoiness. "Of course it's a little awkward (replacing Hoiness). He kind of taught me my ways and helped me develop as a player and a young man. He's real supportive of me coming in and taking the position."

Thomas accounted for 51 career touchdowns and 3,929 rushing yards, but he may be best remembered for his role in one of most dramatic plays in school history. He caught a swing pass on a two-point conversion that decided Idaho's 36-35 win over Boise State in 1998. The victory gave Idaho the Big West title and a berth in the Humanitarian Bowl.

After his collegiate career ended, Thomas played briefly for the Mobile (Ala.) Admirals in the Regional Football League and the Idaho Stallions' arena team in Boise.

"There are some goals I want to accomplish in coaching and this is one of my goals," he said. "I want to do something with this and hopefully get the program back to the winning tradition I experienced when I was here."

Thomas won't be with Purdue when it takes on Washington State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. He said he will go to work immediately for Idaho.

Lamb was recommended to Cable by BYU assistant coach Barry Lamb (no relation). Barry Lamb was defensive coordinator at Idaho from 1986-89 when Cable was a UI graduate assistant.

Lamb might split time between Idaho and BYU, which is preparing for its regular-season finale this weekend against Hawaii and the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.

Lamb's task will be tough. Idaho ranked at or near the bottom of virtually every defensive statistic.

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