Austin Thomas is leaving Baton Rouge for Knoxville.
Thomas, LSU’s general manager for football operations and key in recruiting organization, is taking a similar job with Tennessee and new Volunteers coach Jeremy Pruitt, multiple sources confirmed to The Advocate. Tennessee's 247Sports affiliate, GoVols247.com, reported the news earlier Wednesday.
Thomas, a 31-year-old Tennessee native, has spent the last four and a half years with the Tigers, moving up the ranks within the football operations building – from director of player personnel to assistant athletic director to general manager, a title new coach Ed Orgeron bestowed on him last fall.
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LSU wooed him back to Baton Rouge after he spent three months at Southern Cal in the spring of 2016, handing him a new title and contract. Thomas made $125,000 a year under a two-year contact he signed in May of 2016.
LSU offered Thomas another boost to his current contract, a source confirmed, but he chose to leave for his home state. Thomas spent much of Wednesday morning working at the LSU football operations building and finalizing things before leaving for Knoxville in the late morning hours.
Arden Key’s status for LSU’s bowl game remains uncertain, and the same goes for running back Derrius Guice’s future, coach Ed Orgeron said.
Thomas has deep ties to the Volunteer State. He’s from Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. He got his Master’s degree from UT and spent a season working as a defensive analyst in 2009 under then-Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Thomas’ role at LSU was wide-ranging. For the last year, he served as an active recruiter, replacing 76-year-old Pete Jenkins on the recruiting trail through a waiver. Thomas is responsible for landing at least two significant signees out of Tennessee last cycle: safety JaCoby Stevens and linebacker Jacob Phillips, the No. 2 and No. 3 player in that state, respectively.
Thomas leads the way in the oversight and management of the entire program and works closely with NFL personnel to maximize players’ opportunities at the next level, according to his bio on LSU's website.
For years, he oversaw LSU’s non-coaching football recruiting staff, the behind-the-scenes operation of the program that helps identify, assess and vet potential recruits. A team of students and interns worked under Thomas scouring the country for talent, building recruiting databases and eventually forming LSU’s all-important recruiting big boards.
LSU starting defenders Arden Key and Donnie Alexander missed the first day of bowl practice Tuesday, but the Tigers had a near fully healthy o…