LSU GM and Director of Player Personnel Austin Thomas is returning home.
Sources confirm that Thomas, a valuable member of LSU’s recruiting department, has accepted a position on Tennessee’s coaching staff under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
LSU did not let Thomas walk without a fight. An LSU source confirmed that the team was proactive in trying to retain Thomas, offering him a new deal which was more than Tennessee offered, but he declined it due to his desire to return home and help rebuild the Volunteers.
Thomas spent almost five years in Baton Rouge under coaches Les Miles and then Ed Orgeron. Once Orgeron was named the Tigers’ full-time coach, he promoted Thomas to the team’s general manager, a position not often dished out at the collegiate level.
Thomas was the first general manager in the SEC, a position fitting for his critical role in the operation. Thomas helped lead LSU to consecutive top-five recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015, which included landing the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, Leonard Fournette, in 2014.
Thomas’ career began in Tennessee when he served as a recruiting intern for the Vols. He then was a defensive assistant under Monte Kiffin from 2009-10.
A Franklin, Tenn., native, Thomas has helped LSU put together elite recruiting classes year after year. More recently, he helped recruit in place of soon-to-be retired defensive line coach Pete Jenkins. That allowed the Tigers to land commitments from 5-star safety JaCoby Stevens and 4-star linebacker Jacob Phillips in 2017. Both Stevens and Phillips hail from Tennessee and were the top-ranked prospects at their positions in last year’s class.
This will leave LSU will a gaping hole to fill, especially with the early signing period just a week away. This should not hurt the team’s chances with any commitments or remaining targets, but will force the organization to consider replacements that run the operation as effectively as Thomas did.