NORWALK, Conn. -- Norwalk’s Noel Thomas Jr. figures to play a prominent role for the University of Connecticut’s football team as the Huskies aim to rebound from last year’s 2-10 season.
The Huskies open their 2015 season on Thursday at Rentschler Field in Hartford against Villanova at 7:30 p.m.
Thomas, a junior wide receiver who starred at St. Luke’s in New Canaan, is the team’s top returning wide receiver. He caught 26 passes last year for 305 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.
At media day, second-year coach Bob Diaco said Thomas would be a key player for the Huskies.
"Noel is getting ready to have a breakout year," Diaco told The Hartford Courant at the team's media day. "He is very talented. He has put the investment in, put the work in, has a purpose and professionalism to his approach. He has had a great camp."
Thomas caught four passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns in a game last year against Central Florida. He also had five receptions and a TD in a game against Army.
Last year’s top wideouts, Deshon Foxx and Geremy Davis, have graduated. That leaves Thomas as the leader of a young receiving corps and with a new quarterback. Bryant Shirreffs, a redshirt transfer from North Carolina State, was named the team’s starter earlier this week by Diaco.
Thomas played in five games as a freshman, with two receptions. He came to UConn out of St. Luke’s, where he played for his father, Noel Sr. In the Storm's senior year, Thomas led the team to an 8-1 record and the Fairchester Athletic Association championship game. He even stepped in at quarterback when Charlie Nelson missed time with a concussion midway through the season.
Thomas was named to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class C All-New England team as a senior, and the MSG Varsity Connecticut Player of the Year.
UConn opens the season with three of its first four games at home. After playing Villanova, UConn hosts Army on Sept. 12 and Navy on Sept. 26. The Huskies visit Missouri on Sept. 19.UConn's schedule:
Sept. 3 -- Vs. Villanova, 7:30
Sept. 12 -- Vs. Army, Noon
Sept. 19 -- At Missouri, Noon
Sept. 26 -- Vs. Navy, TBA
Oct. 2 -- At BYU, 10:15 p.m.
Oct. 10 -- At University of Central Florida, TBA
Oct. 17 -- Vs. University of South Florida, TBA
- Oct. 24 -- At Cincinnati, TBA
- Oct. 30 -- Vs. East Carolina, TBA
- Nov. 7 -- At Tulane, TBA
- Nov. 21 -- Vs. Houston, TBA
- Nov. 28 -- At Temple, TBA
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