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Jamari Thrash’s college coaches rave about his ability to get open; he’s confident that’ll continue with Browns

BEREA — Jamari Thrash separates himself from the pack with his ability to separate from cornerbacks.

He isn’t the fastest, tallest or strongest receiver, but Thrash impressed the Browns’ personnel department by consistently creating space with his route running.

“His ability to stop and start are his biggest strengths and especially making everything look like a vertical route and DBs being able to feel his speed,” Georgia Tech coach receivers coach Trent McKnight recently told The Chronicle-Telegram. “He’s got a good ability of being able to change tempos in his routes, too.”

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Thrash was Cleveland’s fifth-round pick last month. The 6-foot, 190-pounder played four years at Georgia State before making the jump to Louisville and the Atlantic Coast Conference for 2023.

McKnight was Thrash’s coordinator and receivers coach at Georgia State. Louisville receivers coach Garrick McGee was the beneficiary of the transfer.

“He’s always working on route running and how to get in and out of his breaks at top speed,” he told The Chronicle on Friday. “He’s got the ability to get to top speed and stop on a dime and those skills always help when you’re trying to create separation from professional corners.”

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Thrash “most definitely” believes that skill will translate to the NFL, just like it did at Louisville. He credits his work off the field.

“Just study film,” he said. “Knowing who I’m going against, just intake information each play.”

Thrash talked Friday before the first practice of the three-day rookie minicamp. When the hour practice started, he wore No. 80 and looked smooth running routes, catching passes and as the gunner in punt drills.

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He was trying to stay in the moment after the whirlwind of the draft and the official start of his NFL career.

“We got here yesterday, flight got delayed twice, so we’re kind of late getting up here, but right now I’m just taking a day at a time, trying to study the playbook, trying to make sure I stay in shape and just keep the ball rolling,” he said.

Thrash didn’t know why he wasn’t recruited by Power Five colleges out of high school in Georgia.

“I always felt like I produced good numbers,” he said. “I can’t tell you.”

He overcame the frustration, totaling 167 catches for 2,610 yards and 18 touchdowns in 49 college games.

“I know God got me and so just taking my time and my head coach always told me don’t be afraid to be a big fish in a small pond,” Thrash said. “So that’s what always stuck with me. My opportunity came, I just made the most of it.”

McGee believes Thrash has the right makeup to make it in the NFL.

“His strength is that he’s a professional football player, meaning he may not be the fastest, he may not be the tallest or any of that, but in regards to just playing football and everything that goes into that, the blocking, the contact, the practice and the studying, not being afraid of contact,” McGee said. “All of those things make him really just a player.”

Thrash’s numbers are solid, just not extraordinary. He ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and jumped 34 inches vertically and 10 feet in the broad jump.

The lack of elite traits is likely the reason he didn’t start at a big-time college program.

“And he knows that and he’s out to prove that for the rest of his life,” McGee said. “He did it with us. He wanted to come here and prove that he was as good as anybody out there. He did a really good job for us.”

Thrash isn’t ready to say he proved everyone wrong.

“I still got a long way to go, my job’s not finished yet,” he said. “So I still take time to learn and dissect stuff from different players.”

The answer fits with McGee’s description of his personality.

“He’s a very mature kid. Things are really important to him,” McGee said. “He enjoys studying football on his own. He’s really a thinker and he likes to process things.

“He’s not a wild, in-the-streets, party type of kid at all. He has some natural leadership ability because he’s not going to change how he is and how he sees things. He’s not going to get influenced by other players or things like that.”

Thrash’s stats got better each year at Georgia State, topping out at 61 catches for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. He caught 63 for 858 yards and six touchdowns last year as Louisville’s top receiver.

“It was just constantly year after year getting better,” McKnight said. “That goes back to the character, that goes back to he’s highly motivated and he’s always had high goals.”

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Thrash will have his work cut out finding playing time in a receiving corps led by Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, Elijah Moore and Cedric Tillman. He’ll compete with David Bell, Michael Woods II and James Proche II for roster spots and opportunities.

“I don’t mind waiting my turn, I don’t mind playing my role,” Thrash said. “So whatever the coach needs me to do, whatever those guys need me do, I’m willing to do it.”

That includes special teams, which he didn’t do much in college. The last part of practice Friday was devoted to it, and Thrash was an active participant.

As good as he is separating, he’s eager to learn from Cooper, who’s considered one of the best route runners in the league.

“Hopefully when I get in the room with those guys, him, Jeudy, Elijah Moore, I’ll be able to dissect and learn different things from those guys, different techniques and different strategies when it comes to playing football,” Thrash said.

Space will be tougher to come by in the NFL, and he knows he needs to work on making contested catches.

“That was something I struggled with in my Georgia State days and my time in Louisville,” he said.

“That’s something that every receiver has to be able to do to be great because you’re not going to create too much separation in the NFL,” McGee said. “The ball’s going to be thrown on time and accurate and you’re going to have to make the catch with a very skilled defensive back on top of you. That was always the plan of why we always worked on it because we were just saying, you’re not going to be wide open in the NFL.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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