"Cam Thomas is our quarterback."
Lovie Smith may say that in a few years after landing the first quarterback commit of his Illinois tenure.
Marian Catholic (Ill.) three-star quarterback Cam Thomas gave a verball commitment to the Illini during an unofficial visit to campus on Tuesday, committing in Smith's office.
"It was the right decision for me," Thomas told IlliniInquirer.com. "I feel like I'm already part of the family there and I can really sense big things brewing in Illini football."
Thomas received a scholarship from the Illini two weeks ago, his first scholarship offer. It was clear the Illini and Thomas wanted to wrap up his recruitment quickly.
"(Lovie) said that he needed me to really get on board and to try hard to get others on board as well," Thomas said earlier this month. "He wants me to show the change that's happening at Illinois. This offer shows me that hard work really pays off and that staying faithful pays off in the long run. This offer has taken the pressure off my senior season. And the fact that it's from Illinois just makes it better. I've grown up watching Big Ten football and Illini football."
The Illini are looking for dual-threat quarterbacks and Thomas -- who finished first among quarterbacks in Nike's athletic testing at The Opening in Chicago last Saturday -- quickly caught their eye.
Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee traveled to Chicago Heights to watch Thomas throw and came away highly impressed. The Illini were trying to get Thomas on campus at the end of the month -- likely to present the offer -- but increased interest from Indiana, Iowa and other programs seemed to convince the Illini to pull the trigger earlier.
"I really didn't know where I would end up," Thomas said Tuesday. "It's a great feeling to be able to just play the senior season and have fun."
Now, Thomas starts a new role with the Illini: recruiter.
"I've got a few in mind," Thomas said. "They are in-state kids. We need the in-state kids to stay and make Illinois great again."
The Illini recruiting class currently ranks 53rd nationally and 11th in the Big Ten.
Thomas gives the Illini another in-state kid to build around and an intriguing dual-threat quarterback prospect to develop. Thomas is a smart, hard-working player who has the leadership skills you look for but the high-ceiling athletic ability and good arm talent that makes him a worthy Big Ten quarterback prospect. The Illini were smart to be the first ones to offer and close the deal quickly so they can move on to fill other needs and have Thomas help recruit other in-state prospects.
Thomas is a lanky, smooth athlete at 6-2.5 and 181 pounds. He reminds me a bit of a more raw version of Nathan Scheelhaase. He ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash on Saturday and finished 12th among the hundreds of campers (and first among the quarterbacks) in the Nike+ Football ratings, measured by four tests: the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, cone drill and weighted ball toss. He is a great athlete. If quarterback doesn't work out, he could possibly play receiver at the next level.
As a quarterback, Thomas has all the tools needed to succeed. He has a smooth delivery that shouldn't need a lot of work and he easily tossed 40-yard passes down the field without having to strain much. He has the arm strength to make back-shoulder throws and was pretty accurate, though he'll need to improve his timing (throwing to receivers before they break their routes).
Thomas is progressing well, but is still a bit raw. Thomas plays for a bad team (Marian Catholic went 1-8) last season. Often, his best chance for success behind a bad offensive line was to improvise. Mechanics often go out the window and he didn't often have time to read through his progressions. He needs reps to master timing and dissecting defenses. So he'll likely need a redshirt year and another year of increased practice reps before making an impact.