Get Your Pepperoni Ready

By Jeff Beck on May 30, 2012 at 4:00p
Get Outta His WaySpeed looks good on you kid.

Freshman wide receiver Michael Thomas burst onto the scene with 12 catches for 131 yards in the spring game last month. As Thomas’ name was mentioned time and time again, the following scene played out in living rooms across Ohio.

Random Dude 1: #83, who is that?

Random Dude 2: Announcers are saying it’s some freshman named Michael Thomas.

Random Dude 1: Michael Thomas? What’s his story?

Random Dude 2: No idea, but kid can catch the football

Random Dude 3: Found a pepperoni in your couch bro

Well Random Dudes 1, 2…and 3 I’m here to tell you that you weren’t alone. Thomas’ performance caught everyone off guard. Well maybe not everyone, Alex had the drop on Thomas over a year ago and Urban had this to say about Thomas after the game.

“He’s our most dedicated receiver…I’m not surprised he had that type of game today”

So scratch that. Unless you were 11W’s recruiting guru or the Buckeyes’ head coach you were surprised.

But maybe we shouldn’t have been this taken aback.  Surprises have been a large part of Thomas’ story.

Consider this from a Nov. 2010 Los Angeles Times article:

“There's no need to take a vote on identifying the most improved football player in Southern California.

It's receiver Mike Thomas of Woodland Hills Taft by a landslide.

Last season, he didn't have a single reception. This season, he has caught 76 passes for 1,392 yards and 15 touchdowns. He ranks No. 1 in the state in receiving yardage.”

Yes, you read that correctly, Thomas went from junior receiver with NO receptions, to senior wide-out with more receiving yards than any receiver in the state of California. Most improved football player in Southern California? Try most improved football player in the country.

The article attributes the meteoric rise in Thomas’ production to Thomas’ previous inability to deal with his meteoric rise in stature. In four years the wide-out went from 5’ 7’’, 115 lbs freshman to 6’3’’ 185 lbs senior (now officially listed by OSU as 6’2’’ 193 lbs). The Alice in Wonderland style growth spurt must have been difficult to deal with, but Thomas worked at it with some help from his father who mined the Internet for techniques to improve strength and quickness.

Catches for daysOne of Thomas' 12 Spring Game catches

Once Thomas held the reigns to his frame, he was incredibly dangerous. So much so that he worked himself into a four-star rating by Rivals a four-star rating by Scout, and a spot on the 2011 Under Armour All-America game roster. 

His senior season totals earned him offers from Cal, Houston, Louisville, Maryland, Oregon State, Pitt, Utah, and Washington among a handful of other schools (not too shabby for one year of H.S. production) but he ultimately chose to surprise suitors and attend Virginia’s Fork Union Military Academy for the 2011 fall semester. The decision was made in an effort to get his grades in order, work on fundamentals and deal with the death of his grandmother who passed away days before 2011’s national signing day.

In one season at Fork Union, Thomas recorded 23 catches for 497 yards and 7 TDs. Good enough to garner offers from Ohio State, Boise State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and UCLA.

In the end Thomas chose the Bucks. He had this to say about OSU a few months before his decision: 

“What is there not to like about Ohio State? It has everything available to get me to the next level starting with academics, coaching, players, facilities, strength of schedule, and a great community—the list goes on and on”

Thomas chose to enroll early, arriving on campus in January and putting in hours of work on a JUGS machine in preparation for the spring game.

The hours paid off.  In a single game Thomas nearly eclipsed the team leading 14 reception season total held by three different receivers in 2011. The comparison isn’t fair as Thomas’ numbers were certainly enhanced by the contrast in philosophies between Bollman and Herman (meaning Herman has one and Bollman didn’t) but at the end of the day it was Thomas, not Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Corey Brown or Jake Stoneburner, tallying catches in the game. Credit where credit is due.

For now Thomas is listed behind Devin Smith on the two deep. But, unlike the Bam Childresses of the world before him, I fully expect Thomas to push Smith for the starting spot and produce when it counts. 

That’s because No. 83 seems to have it all, work ethic, size, speed and a role in an offense that puts a premium on getting the ball in playmakers’ hands. He’s developed a rapport with Braxton Miller and has caught the eye of his new head coach for the right reasons. If that isn’t enough, he’s got an uncle by the name of Keyshawn Johnson who knows a thing or two about receiving.  So, it’s safe to say Thomas is in good hands (pun intended). 

Flash-forward to the end of the 2012 season:

Random Dude 1 (On The Phone): #83 yes, that’s what I said. Do you have any #83 jerseys available?

Random Dude 2 (To Random Dude 1): Brosef, give it a rest it’s December, they’ll carry Thomas’ jersey next season, no worries.

Random Dude 1 (To Random Dude 2): I know but I want it NOW. Kid’s a beast, I'll get three good years out of it.

Random Dude 3 (To No One In Particular): Found a pepperoni in your couch bro.

Don’t believe it’ll happen? Sit back and get your popcorn (Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish…pepperoni) ready, because Michael Thomas might have another surprise up his sleeve. 


Comments Show All Comments

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Damn it - the only thing I found in my buddies couch were beer caps and lint balls the size of golf balls!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

buckeyedude's picture

At least you didn't find a used condom. ;)



ShadyBuckeye's picture

wow I almost decided not to click on this article because of the title, glad I did now lol. I remember that article by Alex as well, Im surprised we snagged him out of Cali, How was he just a 3 star?? Didnt know he was related to keyshawn, probably cuz he sounds like an extremely humble and bright person (no offense keyshawn.) Cant wait for a couple years when Jalin Marshall and Michael Thomas line up opposite eachother!! I love when a WR has a jersey number in the 80's too.

aboynamedtracy's picture

If he only found one, then it's a pepperonus because... science. Anyway, pretty sure Brax will get MT the damn ball quite frequently.

MediBuck's picture

Any idea how fast this kid is? Obviously, he'll be a beast in the flanker position on the outside short pass and flash screen game as we saw in the Spring Game. Nevertheless, I feel that Coach Urb is still unsettled that he hasn't found his burner yet.
If no one emerges by the start of the season to fill the vertical threat role, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more of a grind-it-out offensive mentality than the explosive big-play O some of us are expecting to see from the Meyer spread.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Maestro's picture

He's not a burner.  More of a power receiver from the highlights I have seen.  A kid who can take the ball away from a DB.  He is certainly athletic, but isn't going to burn a corner on a vertical route at this level I don't think.  He is Keyshawn Johnson's nephew FWIW.

vacuuming sucks

flipbuckeye's picture

Nice piece. Here's hoping MT does big things.

Jeff Beck's picture

Thanks, completely agree. It would be great to see a receiver produce as a freshman. Seems like the Buckeyes haven't had that in a while.

Bukirob's picture

Straight line speed for a wide reciever is arguably the most over rated aspect of playing the position.  Great hands, precision on routes and how quickly you can accelerate are far, far more important than weither a kid runs a 4.35 vs a 4.55 The gap between the two over 40 yards in a stright line is not that much to begin with.   
If we posit that the reciever that runs the 4.55-4.6 reciever runs highly precision routes and can make cuts on a dime at nearly full speed will get open far, far more easily than the guy who runs a 4.30-4.35 who is slow into and out of breaks and does not run precise routes.
Clearly if both guys are equally good at the aspects of playing the position the guy with greater speed is going to have the edge.... all told though, straight line speed is fairly far down the list of qualities that make for a great reciever.

You WIN with people.



WW Hayes

BrewstersMillions's picture

Great points. The most extreme example of this is Jerry Rice. Marvin Harrison comes to mind to. At no point were these guys burners but they had the ability to get away from people (And in Rice's case, through people) once they caught the ball. Another thing they (And all great receivers) do-they don't tip their routes. Corner is the hardest defensive position to play so any CB worth his salt will make 40 educated guesses a game when he's watching his man run a route. Guys give routes and breaks away with their hips, heads, and shoulders but the truly great ones look the exact same at the top of an out route, or a skinny post, or a deep curl and so on. There's a reason athletic dudes can not get open. The receiver position has so many technical points to it. Watching a dude get open can really be a thing of beauty if you know what to look for.

BuckinBama's picture

Jerry Rice ran a 4.6, but Marvin Harrison ran a 4.3.