Virginia Tech plucked the latest commitment in its 2021 recruiting class from the Peach State. Malachi Thomas announced his verbal pledge to the Hokies on Wednesday.
"It's a great culture, I love it," said Thomas. "They treat everyone like family. It felt like home whenever they talked to me and my family. Felt like I could fit in the offense that they do, and I feel like I could help produce if I go there."
Credit Adam Lechtenberg and Vance Vice for earning his commitment, which actually happened Saturday. However, Thomas delayed a public announcement so he would have the opportunity to inform his teammates in-person.
Vice had a family connection, he coached Thomas's father, CJ, a former offensive lineman. While Lechtenberg endeared himself to Thomas with his straight-forward, accessible and honest approach.
"He was very excited," said Thomas of Lechtenberg's reaction to his commitment. "He was happy to finally tell me that I was part of the family. He let me know that, and they were very happy to have me onboard."
The 6-0, 183-pound Hart County product is unranked by both 247Sports and Rivals. Although, he held offers from Duke and Kansas State among other non-Power 5 suitors, and last season was named Georgia Class AAA offensive player of the year. He racked up 1,942 rushing yards, 638 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns.
"They told me about their run scheme, and I'll basically be doing what I'm doing now in high school," said Thomas. "Lining up in the backfield, slot receiver splitting out wide, being used as the jet sweep guy, inside zone and outside zone, power back."
Expect Tech to also leverage Thomas's frame blocking on the edge too.
"We actually went over our film and their film together to show how the plays are," said Thomas. "And went over some blocking schemes, cut-ups of me blocking this year and how they use their running backs to block."
Put simply, Thomas's versatility fits the various responsibilities of a running back in the Hokies' offensive scheme. Hart County head coach Rance Gillespie, who spent time in the college ranks most recently as Georgia Southern's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, described him as a slasher in the backfield.
"He's got a really good jump cut," said Gillespie. "The thing that makes him special is his skillset is so varied. He can do so many different things. The kid has unbelievable vision. He sees things really well. Very rarely in our zone scheme we're sitting there going, 'Golly, how'd he miss that?'"
Gillespie likened his game to Saints standout and Norcross HS (Georgia) product Alvin Kamara's, and not the, "5-11 stump that's going to run you over", as he put it.
"He's a six-foot kid that's 183 pounds right now, that will play, no doubt, next year at 190," said Gillespie. "He's kind of a long guy, with really good ball skills. Now he's tough as sh-- and he will run you over. He's more of a longer kid that you're going to do a lot of different things with."
In addition to his ability to see the field and catch the ball, part of the allure of Thomas operating in open space is his elusiveness.
"He's got the ability to make you miss in a phone booth," said Gillespie. "I'm not saying it's explosive speed, it's more of a wiggle with his hips. He's like trying to tackle a rubber band. He's very flexible."
What really stands out to Gillespie though is how easy Thomas is to coach.
"He is a kid that you can meet with, and have a college-style meeting and say, 'Look, I want you to do this, this, this', you go to the field and he does, this, this, this. He's very mature, very focused," said Gillespie.
"He's an authentic kid," Gillespie added. "The 'yes, sir', 'no, sir', high character is not a show, for you or for a recruiter. It's authentic, it's who he is. He comes from a good family. His momma and daddy have done a really good job establishing good core values for him. He's been low maintenance."
Given the COVID-19 dead period, Thomas has not visited Blacksburg yet, but he plans to make an unofficial trip this weekend. Should the possibility of official visits happen this recruiting cycle, Thomas has no plans of exploring other options.
"I'm going to go ahead and close it," Thomas said of his recruitment. "I just feel very comfortable with where I'm at right now with Virginia Tech."