FAYETTEVILLE Washington running backs coach Joel Thomas will join the Razorbacks' coaching staff, it was announced Monday.
In a teleconference on Saturday, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the running backs and linebackers coaches were in place, but would not be named until after their bowl games. The first of those dominoes began to fall Sunday night, when reports of Thomas joining Bielema at Arkansas began to surface. The Huskies' season ended following a 28-26 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
Thomas also held the associate head coach title at Washington, but Bielema has not said whether or not he will keep that role at Arkansas.
“Joel Thomas has a proven record of developing running backs,” said Bielema. “He excelled at the position as a player and has demonstrated a remarkable ability to connect with his student-athletes and pass his knowledge on to them. He also brings a strong background of recruiting in Texas and Dallas specifically, which is a valuable area for us to have a presence. I am extremely confident in Joel’s ability based on his time spent working under Jim Chaney, and I believe Joel’s knowledge and familiarity with Coach Chaney will be a benefit to our offense.”
Thomas, 38, coached at Washington for four seasons, helping former Huskies' running back Chris Polk to three-straight 1,000-yard seasons before he went to the NFL, where he plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. Bishop Sankey rushed for 1,439 yards for the Huskies this season.
Additionally, Thomas puts an emphasis on ball security, as Washington running backs lost just one fumble in 2011.
For the Razorbacks, fumbling was an issue this season as Dennis Johnson lost fumbles inside the five-yard line against Ole Miss (30-27 loss) and LSU (20-13 loss). In two blowout losses, Knile Davis lost a pair of fumbles against Alabama and Texas A&M recovered another Davis fumble for a touchdown.
Even as far back as 2007 and 2008, Arkansas lost a pair of games against Kentucky in which Michael Smith and De'Anthony Curtis lost momentum-swinging fumbles.
Prior to joining Washington's staff, Thomas returned to Purdue as the running backs coach, where he had previously served as a graduate assistant while Jim Chaney was on staff with the Boilermakers. Thomas also coached at Louisville under John L. Smith in 2002 and Bobby Petrino in 2003, making Bielema the third of the three most recent Razorbacks' coaches with whom he will work.
Thomas is an Idaho graduate, where he played running back from 1995-1998. He also coached running backs and was co-offensive coordinator at his alma mater before his return to Purdue.