WR Thomas transferring to Illinois from Miami

Wide receiver Jeff Thomas (4) has a team-high 35 catches before his dismissal from Miami last month.Photo: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

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Thomas, who was dismissed from the Hurricanes' football program, plans to enroll at Illinois for the spring semester, Fighting Illini coach Lovie Smith said Friday on the school's official website.

It will be a homecoming for Thomas, a native of East St. Louis, Ill., who was heavily recruited by Smith coming out of high school.

"Jeff Thomas is an elite level football player who we expect to make an immediate impact with the Fighting Illini program," Smith said. "We know he is excited to return to his home state. This continues a string of great players from East St. Louis coming to the University of Illinois. We recruited Jeff extremely hard out of high school, and when he contacted us about the possibility of returning home, we were immediately interested in making his wishes come true.

"We will fully support his efforts for immediate eligibility at Illinois."

Thomas will have to sit out the 2019 season, per NCAA transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

At the time of his dismissal from Miami, Thomas was the Hurricanes' leading wide receiver with 35 receptions for 563 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a touchdown.

"I would like to thank The University of Miami, my teammates, coaches for their amazing support the past 2 years," Thomas wrote on his Twitter account. "With that being said, I would like to thank Coach Lovie Smith for this opportunity to further my education and football career at the University of Illinois."

Thomas was dismissed from Miami's program with one game remaining in the regular season. No reason was given for his departure.

"We have high standards for excellence, for conduct and for the commitment to team for all of the young men who wear our uniform, and we will not waver from those standards," Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt said in a statement at the time. "We wish Jeff the very best as he moves forward in his journey."

Thomas had 16 catches for 326 yards and two scores as a freshman, averaging 20.4 yards per reception.