Thomas Looking For Breakout Sophomore Season

Ohio State sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas is close friends with standout quarterback Braxton Miller, which will only help Thomas in the future. Thomas was a 2012 spring standout who failed to capitalize on that momentum last fall. Now he is hoping to become a bigger part of the OSU offense.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller debuted a new look Wednesday afternoon at the Coach Meyer Spring Kick-Off event at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, showing off a new blond mohawk during his time talking to those in attendance.

While the fans got their first look at Miller's new 'do on Wednesday, several of his coaches and teammates already knew about the change. Among the first was sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas.

"As soon as he got it done, he sent me a picture because he wanted to know my opinion on it," Thomas said Thursday.

And that opinion was?

"I told him it was great," Thomas said. "It's just something new. Why not?"

It should not be a huge surprise that one of the first people to learn about Miller's change was Thomas. The pair spent time together during the offseason in Thomas' native state of California, improving their on-field chemistry while Miller was in San Diego working with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr.

Thomas was happy to work with Miller because they have become fast friends since Thomas came to Ohio State from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft.

"We just always hang out," Thomas said. "He's just like a brother away from home. He's from Ohio and I'm from California.

"He also motivates me if I'm down. He picks me up. He's someone to be there for you – a real close friend."

That relationship can only help Thomas in his future as a Buckeye. The 6-2, 199-pound receiver burst onto the scene during the 2012 spring game. Thomas caught a game-high 12 passes for 131 yards in that contest – nabbing half of the 24 completions Miller threw on the afternoon.

After the spring game, however, things did not go as well for Thomas. In the spring, he replaced an injured Evan Spencer at flanker (Z receiver). When fall came, Spencer returned and Thomas moved to the split end (X receiver). He caught only three passes during Ohio State's 12-0 season for 22 yards. Those numbers were perhaps a disappointment after his spring game showcase, but part of that downturn came because of the steep learning curve freshman have to deal with when they start playing college football.

Thomas feels more comfortable at split end now and things are starting to feel more natural for the sophomore.

"Now I'm learning the concepts," he said. "Now I'm able to slow the game down and do my assignment."

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith said Thomas is a "very talented kid, a very talented player" who was "a little clueless at first." The sum of Thomas first collegiate season should provide motivation, Smith said.

"I think right now, as it stands, it was motivating because of the year he had and the expectations he had after the spring game," Smith said. "I'm glad it happened now. Last year, I think he might have been a little inflated, but he's not now because of the result of the season after the spring game."

That motivation has sparked Thomas, especially among a wide receivers group that has plenty of players with game experience like Corey "Philly" Brown, Devin Smith and Spencer. The competition for playing time is heating up, which suits Thomas just fine.

"If you watch our one-on-ones (with defensive backs), I just love competing," Thomas said. "I always like to win. I think that's what our team is starting to learn this year – just winning, winning, winning. We all love to win."

Also helping Thomas is the guidance he gets from a very notable cousin – former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson. The pair communicate often – usually about football.

"He gives me pointers on everything," Thomas said. "If I have a question, I go to him and he gives me pointers on anything. (It's) basically a mindset. He said when he was at USC, you just have to have the mindset that you have to come down with the ball every day at practice."

Smith sees an energized player in Thomas out on the field after dealing with success and adversity during his freshman year.

"He was a true freshman and he wasn't as good as I hoped he was going to be or he hoped he was going to be," Smith said. "But the best thing that happened to him was having to deal with success and failure and having to go into an offseason saying, ‘My God, I was nowhere near where I want to be or where my coach needs me to be.'

"It's really fueled his last six months."

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