LEXINGTON, Ky. — Clevan Thomas is one of 24 signees in Kentucky’s 2017 class. He is one of seven signees who enrolled in January for the spring semester. And he is the only true freshman who has appeared on Kentucky’s preseason depth chart.
The wide receiver from Hollywood, Fla., wasn’t among Kentucky’s top 10 signees, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. But Thomas, who was the 102nd-ranked receiver in the class, has done enough in six months to impress Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
Thomas is listed as the backup to senior Garrett Johnson at the “F” receiver position. As for why?
“Really his grit and his passion, and he’s really got into the playbook and became a sponge and took some extra time,” Gran said Friday at a kickoff luncheon in Louisville. “He comes out and competes every day and he’s going to have to with some of these other young guys who have come in, too. They’re fighting for jobs. He did show that and he showed us the consistency.”
Thomas’ place on the preseason depth chart as a true freshman is a rarity. He’s only the fifth true freshman to appear on Kentucky’s preseason two-deep in the last three years. Linebacker Kash Daniel and punter Grant McKinniss accomplished the feat prior to last season. Offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei and tight end C.J. Conrad appeared on the two-deep as true freshmen prior to the 2015 season.
“We got an opportunity to work with Clevan in the spring, so that gave him a leg up,” Stoops said at SEC Media Days. “We’ll see.”
The Wildcats have a veteran receiving corps. Six of the eight receivers listed on the two-deep are juniors or seniors. Thomas and Tavin Richardson, the projected starter at the “X” spot, are the only underclassmen wideouts listed.
Thomas’ place on the two-deep is a tenuous one if the last few preseason depth charts hold any predictive powers. All positions will be up for grabs, as Stoops likes to point out, once fall camp starts at the end of the month.
Kentucky and Southern Miss will kick off the season in 40 days’ time. Few freshmen are expected to participate, but Thomas could be an exception. Count Cats quarterback Stephen Johnson as a believer in Thomas.
“Just the way he approaches the field,” Johnson said at SEC Media Days. “He wants to learn. He wants to get better. To have him out there really helping the younger guys like himself really gives him the edge on the field.”