Elite 2021 target Jayden Thomas: Big catches, bigger options and … The Beatles?
Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. The play sheet today calls for a chance to get to know Jayden Thomas. He’s an elite recruit in the Class of 2021.
Pace Academy has another top prospect in the 2021 class. That would be 4-star WR Jayden Thomas. It is simple enough to play it cool by leading off with a few eye-catching elements to his game.
When it comes to Thomas ….
- The Pace Academy staff feels he’s as coachable and as easy to develop as any player they’ve had. (Hat tips: Andrew Thomas, Jamaree Salyer and Trey Blount.)
- Thomas is a receiver prospect, but he commanded attention when he played man-to-man defense from the cornerback spot on former 5-star WR Jadon Hasewlood last fall. He did his job.
- The junior WR has the tools to be seen as a college baseball or a pro baseball prospect.
- The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is a do-everything marvel right now for his team. The Knights don’t have a very deep team and ask a lot from him. He responds with duties ranging from defensive end, quarterback, returning kicks and safety. It adds up to 100-plus plays per game at this time.
- With all of that, the coaches at Pace have marveled at the way he takes care of his body. He’s acting like “a professional” and making sure he gets treatment and cold tub soaks after practices.
- He will leave his home in Paulding County by 6:15 every morning and fight Atlanta traffic for 50 minutes to be early to attend Pace Academy every day. It takes a lot of discipline for a young man to do that every day.
- Thomas rates as a 4-star recruit, the nation’s No. 29 WR and No. 145 overall prospect for the 2021 cycle on the 247Sports Composite ratings.
- Georgia and Ohio State have been hard on Thomas for the longest time. Those two schools are really in it, but Alabama is making a big charge. Thomas was at the UGA cookout event over the summer and had himself quite the time.
- The 2019 team captain caught 42 passes for 696 yards last fall. Those totals meant an average gain of 16.6 yards per catch. Those 42 catches included five touchdowns.
That’s a lot to break down, but all that went Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da once he told me about what he likes to listen to. John, Paul, George and Ringo are on his hype playlist.
“I play this one song by The Beatles called ‘Hey Jude,'” Thomas said. “I just checked out The Beatles like recently. I was like ‘Oh jump’ with. I knew they were hype and all but let me find out. I checked them out.”
Then he added to the intrigue. It is doubtful that any receivers said anything like that in 1969 about that song. That was a year after that song came out.
Fifty years later? Man, get out of here with that.
“It is the melody,” he said. “It is just so smooth how they get in and out of all their tones. It reminds me of getting in and out of a route or something. In football. It just helps to put me in a relaxed state.”
Thomas still likes the modern stuff from Future, Gunna, Lil Baby, NBA Youngboy and Young Thug, among others. But he’s got a Beatles channel in his playlists, too.
“For sure,” he said. “I just like their music.”
Lot of things to like about Jayden Thomas
Let’s eyeball that early junior film first. He’s a Saturday receiver. That’s what he wants to do. Even though he looks like he could be a Sunday safety the way he smacks guys around.
.@jgpt333 with a clean comeback route. 6’2 205 with great route running abilities, reliable hands and just a dang good kid. He’s one of the top 2021 kids in the country. #PaceKnight #TEwracademy pic.twitter.com/Vc2ZekhnG6
— TE Wr Academy (@TEwracademy) September 4, 2019
The term “football player” applies. Clearly.
Thomas can play anything. He can hit. Very physical. Explosive. The Thomas resume is just a couple of state track championship level events from being the prototype player for Kirby Smart and Georgia.
But that’s the thing. It already is.
The need is the same for Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Virginia Tech, too.
“JT is a lot like Jamaree,” Pace Academy coach Chris Slade said. “Probably that ‘best player’ type on the team but also the easiest to coach. When your best player allows you to coach him, then he makes your job all that much easier. He’s that guy. He’s that best player for us and he’s respectful. Shows up on time. Works hard. He’s a leader in our group. Very humble. He comes here to Pace from Dallas Georgia every day.”
“Just that in itself shows how dedicated that kid is. It is a hike from Dallas to get here through Atlanta traffic every day and he never complains.”
Slade feels the most positive thing he’s seen from Thomas is he is “just so reliable” with what his team needs.
“He’s so reliable,” Slade said. “Of course, he’s so good. But we are a different team without him. When he’s not around and not playing he is just the most reliable kid. He doesn’t think about taking plays off. I know what I am getting every single day with him. He’s one of the best football players and the best kids to coach in America.”
Thomas got the “go cover that dude” assignment with Haselwood last year. He did. He was assigned a similar task with 6-foot-4 WR (and UGA commit) Justin Robinson this year.
“We just throw him in there in the game and he’s a natural,” Slade said. “You don’t stick many kids at a position to guard a kid that’s going to Georgia and he does not practice that position a lot. You don’t do that. That’s dangerous. That’s not natural. That’s like you don’t want your job as his coach. But we feel confident we can just stick ‘JT’ in there and he can just go cover that guy.”
Jayden Thomas: His thoughts on Georgia
Thomas is trained by former Georgia all-time great WR Terrence Edwards. Edwards is on the staff at Pace Academy. He works with the offense and the wide receivers. Thomas is one of his guys.
He’s proven to be quite an adept student soaking up what Edwards has to teach.
The Knights program has produced quality Saturday players like Deon Jackson (Duke) and Realus George (Miami) over the last few years, too. Just to name a few.
How is Thomas like those guys?
“His work ethic,” Slade said. “Andrew [Thomas] was a slow starter for us. He really didn’t start busting his tail for us here until his junior year. But when he did, he did. Jamaree was a self-starter. But Deon and ‘JT’ are very similar in practice habits. The way they prepare and they get after it. The way every rep matters to them and how competitive they are. He’s very similar to Deon, too. Very dynamic. Very explosive.”
Thomas is an outside receiver. He doesn’t have that blinding speed, but he is gifted with long strides. It is deceptive and it allows him to get on top of any DB quickly.
But he still tested well at during the Atlanta Opening regional this year.
- 40-yard dash: 4.63 (Laser)
- Vertical jump: 33.6 inches
- Powerball toss: 44.5 feet
- Pro agility shuttle: 4.21 seconds
The Bulldogs have since cranked up the “love” for Thomas. The September 1 date to begin contacting juniors was eye-opening for him. When the mail game was on, it was on.
“Georgia was with the mail,” Thomas said. “Georgia sent me about 50 letters just by themselves in one day.”
His DMs have been flooded. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh even reached out.
What does Georgia value in him?
“They like me as a person that I am good and on the field, my playmaking ability is what they want,” Thomas said.
Kirby Smart has even brought up a “Pace Pipeline” of sorts.
“He tells me I will fit in very well just like Jamaree and Trey and Andrew have fit in,” Thomas said. “Coach Smart said they need kids like us coming from this prestigious high school.”
How does Thomas feel about Georgia?
“They are definitely up there,” Thomas said. “They are the hometown team. The home team. All my friends are pretty much Georgia. I’ve been growing up Georgia and being in Athens is really home.”
Georgia receivers coach Cortez Hankton was part of his answer about what he liked best about the program.
“Family person,” Thomas said. “He values you as a person first instead of on the field first. That’s what I really value about him and the potential of playing for him there at Georgia as a coach.”
Hankton has told him he likes the way he blocks, flashes sure hands and how he makes plays smoothly getting in and out of his breaks.
Salyer’s recruiting story also made an impression.
“I’ve always been watching Jamaree and his recruiting,” Thomas said. “Watching him go to Georgia and the recruiting process for him. When he chose Georgia, it really stuck out to me. Because he had all the schools like ‘Bama and Clemson and Ohio State. That really just turned my mind on to Georgia. I could see myself there since he went there.”
The schools “in there” right now for Jayden Thomas
Auburn, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia are schools to make note of here. Thomas really likes certain things about all those schools.
But it sounds like there is even more rarefied air for a few schools. That listing will now include Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. His trip to Blacksburg ranks among his best visits.
Alabama has surged of late. Thomas was at the opener for the Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He then double-dipped with a Tuscaloosa trip for the New Mexico State game the following week.
“I really like ‘Bama,” he told DawgNation. “They are definitely at the top. The staff is telling me that they will need receivers because of how they will graduate some in the next 2 years and I will get the chance to play early. [Nick] Saban was talking to me about getting to play early and that they need guys like me.”
That’s an “at the top” quote. It means Alabama is within his top group. Thomas has not set leaders and might never choose to do so. It just sounds like they will be in a fight with a grouping of other elite programs he holds in the highest regard.
Look for him to return to Georgia for the Notre Dame game on Sept. 21.
He feels Clemson has had the best edits for him so far. He also admits he did grow up a “bandwagon ‘Bama” fan back before he began to understand what it meant to be a recruit.
He doesn’t have a set timetable.
“I don’t think I do,” Thomas said about any timelines. “I’d like to do it sometime before or right at the start of my senior season. Maybe probably right on my birthday. That’s October 18.”
He will be 18 then. Going on 35.
The team captain drips maturity and responsibility. The vibes from those character traits roll off him like practice sweat.
If it wasn’t for his wild hairstyle, he’d really seem senatorial. The “mushroom top” he sports keeps him looking like a kid, though.
Even though “Hey Jude” on his playlist suggests otherwise. That’s 51 years after that song came out.
Check out the full highlight reel from his sophomore season.