Jeff Thomas is one of the hottest commodities still on the open market in the 2017 recruiting cycle.
Realizing the potential of adding an impact playmaker late in the process with no clear leader, Tennessee coaches offered the Scout No. 1-ranked wide receiver in Illinois and East St. Louis High School star on the final day of 2016.
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has his work cut out for him to make up ground on the competition to land Thomas, as the blue-chipper doesn't know much about the Big Orange.
“No, not really,” Thomas told Scout. “I’ve watched them on TV, but I mean I haven’t had that experience yet.”
The 5-foot-10, 167-pounder with laser-timed 4.38 speed has plenty with which to get educated in terms of a college destination — and a short time to do it.
“I’m taking all my official visits and seeing which schools I like the most,” Thomas said.
The NCAA Dead Period ends Jan. 11. National Signing Day is Feb. 1. Thomas plans to get in five official visits this winter, hoping to trip to “right now Louisville, Miami and hopefully Oregon.”
As for the other two potential officials, Thomas did confirm that one could result in his coming to Knoxville. No dates for any of the five trips are set in stone but Thomas is leaning toward going to Louisville on the Jan. 13-15 weekend and Illinois on Jan. 20-22.
Thomas possesses big-play potential. In the IHSA Class 7A state championship versus Plainfield North he torched his foe for touchdown receptions of 43 and 61 yards. A 72-yard pitch-and-catch for another score got called back due to an illegal block. His finale with the Flyers resulted in a 26-13 win with Thomas catching three passes for 105 yards and the two TDs.
In 2016, Thomas caught 58 balls for 1,198 yards with 14 TDs.
The pass catcher who’s made an art form out of zig-zagging across gridirons everywhere finished the Under Armour All-American game as the most valuable player Sunday after a record 148 receiving yards, which included scoring hauls of 44 and 79 yards. Thomas’ Team Armour won 24-21 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
When asked what helped him find paydirt versus some of American’s finest prep defenders, Thomas was succinct: “My speed.”
Scout regional recruiting analyst John Garcia Jr. contributed to this report.