A day before national signing day, Kentucky got another kind of signature, this time from a new assistant coach.
UK Coach Mark Stoops made the hiring of new wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas official.
The former NFL wide receiver, who won multiple championships while playing for Miami, is the final piece of the assistant coaching puzzle for UK this season.
And it was an important piece, Stoops said in a release through the school.
“The competitiveness Lamar showed as a player has translated into his work ethic as a coach,” Stoops said. “I’ve followed his career and been impressed with how his players play and how he handles himself on the recruiting trail.”
Thomas, 45, coached wideouts the past two seasons at Louisville — including one season coaching top-15 NFL Draft pick DeVante Parker — and spent one season in the same position under Bobby Petrino at Western Kentucky.
Thomas was responsible for helping Louisville secure four-star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who made an immediate impact for the Cardinals this season, including torching UK in the second half at Commonwealth Stadium in November.
“Stealing Lamar away from Louisville is just a coup because you’re hurting them and strengthening your own program at the same time,” Rivals recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said Tuesday. “You always want to do that with a rival.”
Thomas also helped Louisville land four-star wideout Devante Peete and two Rivals’ three stars in Paul Harris and Jaylen Smith.
In 2014, Thomas helped Louisville land three-star linebacker Sharieff Rhaheed and defensive back Trumaine Washington.
The wide receivers, expected to be a strength for Kentucky last season, were a disappointment to Stoops.
The group, led by Dorian Baker (55 catches, 608 yards, three touchdowns), Garrett Johnson (46 catches, 694 yards, two TDs) and Jeff Badet (29 catches, 430 yards, two TDs), wasn’t reliable.
“They played some good football, but too inconsistent for us,” the head coach said in a December interview. “That group needs to continue to improve to be difference makers. … Even though we made some really spectacular plays at times, I just think the overall consistency of that group needs to improve.”
Before joining the WKU staff, Thomas spent two seasons coaching wideouts at Hampton and three seasons at Boynton Beach Community High in Florida.
The star wide receiver at Miami from 1988-92 was a two-time, first-team All-Big East member and won national championships in 1989 and 1991, when new UK offensive coach Eddie Gran was a graduate assistant for the Hurricanes.
Thomas holds the school record for most career receptions with 144. When he graduated, he was second in both receiving yards (2,271) and touchdowns (32) behind Michael Irvin.
He played eight seasons in the NFL as a wideout, three with Tampa Bay and five with Miami.
In the release from UK, Thomas said he’s known Stoops for many years and liked the direction of the program.
“He’s always been a stand-up person and a person I really like and admire,” Thomas said. “I like how he runs his program and what he stands for. I look forward to coaching in the SEC and I also look forward to coaching the receivers at UK. I can’t wait.”
The Cats return every player who caught a pass last season with the exception of quarterback Patrick Towles, who statistically caught a pass that was batted back to him in a game. They also have two highly touted freshmen who redshirted in Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood.
While at Louisville, Thomas made $200,000 last season and he’s replacing Tommy Mainord and later Chad Scott, who both made $275,000 last year. Thomas’ contract at Kentucky calls for him to make $275,000 in 2016 and $300,000 in 2017.