April 21, 2012

Thomas flashes immense potential

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Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two minutes, 17 seconds was all Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offense needed to get the fans out of their seats. It took only eight plays in that amount of time for the Scarlet team to score in the Buckeyes' annual spring game on Saturday.

Miller went a perfect four of four on the drive for 51 yards, before giving way to Carlos Hyde on the one-yard touchdown plunge.

Scarlet defeated the Gray team 20-14 in front of 81,112 mostly yellow-clad fans - ponchos, not Michigan related - in cold and misty conditions.

The offenses combined for 532 yards in the first live look at Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman's up-tempo, no-huddle system. Miller finished 24 of 31 for 258 yards with one interception.

After a year of turmoil, finally, the fans had something to cheer about. Now the anticipation f or the regular season begins. A down year in 2011 has given way to an almost unprecedented amount of optimism in Buckeye Nation. Urban Meyer is the reason, but after a 12-catch, 132-yard performance - 25 percent of the total yardage - wide receiver Michael Thomas is also earning admiration.

Thomas, who enrolled in January, attended Fork Union Military Academy in 2011 after graduating from high school in Los Angeles. During his time at FUMA, Thomas roomed with fellow Buckeye Cardale Jones.

The Miller-to-Thomas link made its Scarlet and Gray debut Saturday, but it wasn't the first time the two formed a bond.

"Last year we played in an All-American game together in Florida and we connected," Miller said. "He said he wanted to come (to Ohio State and) play with me."

Thomas's 12 receptions were two shy of the season leader for all of last season. It came as no surprise to his head coach, though, who said as much. Thomas has been impressive throughout the spring. The one knock on him has been ball protection, but he had no problem holding on to the ball after a vicious hit from Etienne Sabino that sent Thomas head-over-heels in the second quarter.

An area where there is no criticism of Thomas is his work ethic. The nephew of former NFL All-Pro Keyshawn Johnson has already developed a name for himself throughout the vast hallways of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

"He's very talented," Meyer said of Thomas. "He's a kid that goes non-stop. We have a jugs machine and he goes in on his own. He asked me if it was open and I said, 'Yeah, it's open all the time. He works on the jugs machine non-stop. He's our most dedicated receiver right now and he's a true freshman."

Ironically, when Miller made his way to the podium he revealed that Thomas was, in fact, back at the WHAC working on the jugs machine.

"We work out all the time in the weight room," Miller said. "I'll pick him up and we go in and work out, watch film and catch balls. He's just trying to grow up and become a good receiver."

After four months of development and three weeks of practice, Thomas is well on his way to that goal. He also has the skills and determination to become the next great Ohio State wide receiver. More importantly in the present, Meyer may have found one of his playmakers. He's been searching without much luck throughout the spring. But Meyer rattled off a list Saturday with a smile on his face.

"Right now (Thomas) and Philly are separating themselves. They're our top two (receivers)," he said.

"Right now our playmakers on offense in order would be Jordan Hall, Jake Stoneburner, Carlos, Philly Brown, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith. You got Heuerman right there and some other players that are close."

Said Miller of Thomas, "He brings some more excitement. He goes up for the ball and gets jacked after the catch. That's what we are looking for."

Meyer couldn't agree more.


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