FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back coach Joel Thomas has signed a new employment agreement with the Razorbacks.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back coach Joel Thomas has signed a new employment agreement with the Razorbacks.


Thomas became the seventh member of coach Bret Bielema’s staff to agree to terms since the end of the 2014 regular season. The new contract will pay Thomas $280,000 annually and runs through June 30, 2016. He earned $245,000 last season.


"We are very excited to extend Joel’s contract and keep him here at Arkansas," Bielema said in a statement Wednesday. "He is a passionate teacher on and off the field and has done an excellent job developing our talent at the running back position. Joel is a valuable asset to our program as we continue to take steps forward in pursuit of an SEC Championship."


Arkansas running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins each topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark under Thomas’ tutelage last season. They became the only teammates in the nation to accomplish the feat. Collins also rushed for more than 1,000 yards during his freshman season in 2013.


Thomas will try to help the running backs reach the mark once again in 2015.


It was unclear if he would return for his third season after being one of three Arkansas assistants — joining offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and wide receivers coach Michael Smith — without new terms when the Razorbacks announced contract extensions and raises for six other staff members last week. Chaney has left the Razorbacks for the offensive coordinator job at Pittsburgh. Smith now is the only 2014 Arkansas assistant without a finalized agreement with the Razorbacks.


Thomas’ new deal includes a buyout if he left the Razorbacks for anything but a position as a head coach or offensive coordinator. The buyout is $50,000 until Feb. 15, 2016 and drops to $25,000 for the final four months of the agreement.


Thomas, Robb Smith (defensive coordinator), Sam Pittman (offensive line), Barry Lunney Jr. (tight ends), Clay Jennings (defensive backs), Rory Segrest (defensive line) and Ben Herbert (strength and conditioning) have all signed new agreements since December. The seven have combined to receive $425,000 in raises for 2015.


Bielema is in the process of interviewing candidates for two openings on his staff. In addition to Chaney, linebackers coach Randy Shannon left for a position at Florida.


"Thank you to Bret and (athletic director) Jeff (Long) for giving me such a wonderful opportunity," Thomas said in a news release announcing his new agreement. "The Arkansas family has really embraced my family and we are thrilled to be part of this football program. I’m fired up to work with a great group of young men and cannot wait to showcase their abilities in 2015 and beyond."