With the distinct possibility of losing its top two wide receivers to the NFL Draft, LSU found itself in a position to try and attract experienced wide outs.
The Tigers were able accomplish just that, landing their second player Friday from the NCAA transfer portal in Mississippi State’s Zavion Thomas. Several hours earlier they also secured a commitment from Texas A&M safety Jardin Gilbert.
“Just being home and going to war with my brothers,” Thomas told On3 about his pledge to LSU.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Thomas, who has two years of eligibility, can help LSU further solidify its wide receiver corps which is expected to watch Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. opt for the NFL Draft where they are both likely to be first round selections.
Not only does Thomas, a distant relative of former NFL great Walter Payton, have two years of experience at wide receiver in the Southeastern Conference, but the former four-star prospect from John Ehret High is also an accomplished punt and kickoff returner.
Thomas started in eight of MSU’s 11 games in 2023 and caught 40 passes for 503 yards and a touchdown. His best game came was in the team’s annual rivalry with Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl with six catches for 88 yards and wound up with at least one catch in 10 consecutive games.
Thomas, who had three receptions for 25 yards in a 41-14 loss to LSU on Sept. 16, also returned six kickoffs for a 33.7 average with a 94-yard touchdown. He also had 14 punt returns for a 11.6-yard average with a long return of 31 yards.
LSU’s punt return unit, which tied for the nation’s fourth-lowest mark with six returns, averaged 11.5 yards with a long of 27 yards. The Tigers also returned 17 kickoffs for an average of 20 yards with a long of 60 yards from freshman Kaleb Jackson.
Thomas was named to the Football Writers Association of America’s All-Freshman team in ’22, earning a spot at punt return specialist with a 13.5-yard average to rank fifth nationally and second in the SEC. He had a career-long return of 63 yards for a score against Georgia.
He finished his two-year career with 42 catches for 507 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas, an ESPN four-star prospect and No. 22 player in Louisiana, had 2,000 all-purpose yards during his senior season at John Ehret. He caught 37 passes for 1,025 yards and 18 TDs, rushed for 779 yards and returned three of six punt returns for touchdowns.