St. Francis RB favors Wisconsin

James Thomas is receiving interest from several Division I programs

The University of Wisconsin football team already has a verbal commitment from one star player at St. Francis (Wis.) High School — offensive lineman Josh Oglesby. Class of 2007 running back prospect James Thomas does not come with the five-star recruit credentials of his teammate, Oglesby, but Thomas has thus far enjoyed an exceptional high school career in his own right.

Thomas has yet to receive a scholarship offer, but Division I programs are beginning to direct attention his way. In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Thomas said he is receiving significant interest from Minnesota, Illinois, Ball State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Central Florida and Division I-AA Illinois State.

"Wisconsin is No. 1 on my list," Thomas said.

The 5-foot-8, 215-pound Thomas said his other favorites are Minnesota, Illinois and Northern Illinois. But the Badgers have been his favorite team since he began playing football as a five-year-old.

The little league football team that he played on from ages 5-11 was actually named the Wisconsin Badgers.

"So I've been a Badger fan since I was little," Thomas said.

Thomas, who reported a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, said he has not yet attended a combine or camp this spring, though he has made unofficial visits to Wisconsin and Ball State.

"I will be attending Wisconsin camp, the Minnesota camp, Northern Illinois, Illinois State and there should be a couple more," he said.

Thomas spent the past two seasons rotating at running back with class of 2006 prospect Jason McClelland.

As a sophomore in 2004, Thomas ran for 884 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 113 carries. Last season he had 1,283 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing on 165 carries. That is a two-season average of 7.8 yards per carry and a touchdown every 9.3 carries.

"I've got a power style, but I also can run away from you," Thomas said. "… You have your tailback or your halfback, and you have your fullback. It's like I'm a mixture of those two. I can run through you. I can get the hard yardage and I can get 20 yards if we need it."

Without McClelland around this fall, Thomas might be in for a larger role.

"Hopefully I'll have somebody to rotate with because I want to share the ball," Thomas said. "But if not, I'm looking forward to the challenge of it just being me."

Thomas has benefited from playing behind a pair of major Division I offensive line recruits while he has been at St. Francis. When Thomas was a sophomore, Jose Valdez, who signed with Arkansas, was a senior. Thomas's classmate Oglesby is one of the top high school players in the country, regardless of position.

Thomas enjoys Oglesby's assistance on both sides of the ball.

"It was even better when we had Jose too," Thomas said. "It's great. (Oglesby) just demolishes everybody. Even on defense. He plays defensive end and I'm at linebacker—no one really gets to me. None of the linemen get to the second level to get to me. It's great."

Thomas said that all of the teams recruiting him are looking at him to play running back.


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