NCAA transfer portal vests power in student-athletes

By Miles Powers-Huang

Over the past week, there was plenty of speculation regarding the status of Jeff Thomas in the Illini football program.

On Monday, the situation was thought to be finally cleared up.

In an interview with The News-Gazette, Thomas provided what many thought to be a confirmation he would be joining the team for the 2019 season, his first public comment since he released a video committing to Illinois on Dec. 21.

“I’m on my way now,” Thomas reportedly told The News-Gazette’s, Bob Asmussen. “I’m really excited to get started at Illinois.”

However, just a day later, Thomas flipped sides and decided to return to Miami.

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    Over the past week, there was speculation on social media Thomas was trying to return to Miami in the wake of Mark Richt’s retirement and Manny Diaz’s subsequent hire at head coach.

    The East St. Louis native took to Instagram to announce his decision, thanking Illinois in the process.

    Given the official Illini football Twitter account and both confirmed Thomas’ presence in the program, it’s likely his transfer process to Illinois was nearly complete.

    With Thomas now out of the picture for the 2019 season, the pressure is only increased on a wide receiving unit plagued with drops in 2018.

    Though missing out on Thomas could be a tough pill to swallow, the Illini were still highly successful in attracting other transfers. Georgia tight end Luke Ford, Oklahoma wide receiver A.D. Miller and Alabama guard Richie Petitbon will be immediate impact players on the offensive side of the ball for Illinois. Miller and Petitbon are immediately eligible as graduate-transfers, while Ford’s status is unknown. Ford did announce he is transferring to Illinois to be closer to his family, which would allow him to seek a specific NCAA waiver.


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