When you have a big-time wide receiver in an offense, it makes everything else better. A player who commands attention on the outside opens up the entire field for the other playmakers to make an impact.
Michigan State has experienced a transformation in their offense this season by delivering a potent running game, which features Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, that can be attributed to the dominant nature of their star junior receiver Devin Thomas. Not only does Thomas star as a receiver, but he's also capable of rushing the ball and starring on special teams as a return man. Thomas isn't your average jack-of-all-trades.
"When he has an opportunity to come in and make plays, he makes plays," Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio said. "Whether it's kickoff returns, catching the deep ball, running reverses, or whatever; when he's hot, he plays football at a different level."
Thomas may play football at a different level, but it wasn't always at the top level. Prior to suiting up for the Spartans, Thomas was a JUCO standout at Coffeyville Community College. He spent two years at Coffeyville and redshirted his first year (2004). As a redshirt freshman (2005), Thomas led Coffeyville to a 9–3 record and immediately showed his skills by catching 33 passes for 674 yards and five touchdowns.
A year ago, Thomas was a relative unknown as he only managed six receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. But he displayed his talents in a game against Indiana last season and had four catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. After that game, his promise was evident, and it has blossomed into superstardom.
Devin Thomas makes a catch against Iowa
AP Photo/Brian Ray
At 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, Thomas, whose nickname is "Showtime," has the size, speed, and strength to muscle up the best corners in the country. He's emerged as one of the most dominant receivers in college football this season, collecting 75 receptions for 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns.
"He has exceeded my expectations in the way he has approached things," Dantonio said. " He has just blossomed into a playmaker. He's been the total football player for us in every respect."
Thomas is a quick receiver who consistently makes plays on offense. He uses his size to his advantage, runs physical routes, and makes tough catches in traffic. He gets a quick release off the line, is quick in and out of cuts, and flashes vertical speed to make big plays. He's a sure-handed receiver who adjusts to errant throws, leaps to make acrobatic receptions, and finds soft spots within a defense. He plays with a lot of awareness and instincts and is a capable blocker downfield.
At this point, Thomas is NFL ready, but he has to run more precise routes. He
tends to lack focus on intermediate routes and will occasionally drop easy
Thomas has a chance to be an explosive receiver at the next level. He has a unique blend of size, speed, athleticism, and instincts that's hard to find in a young receiver.
Since he's only a junior, he has a tough decision to make at the end of the year. Thomas' emergence will draw a lot of attention and he will be tempted to forego his senior season. But returning for his senior year will benefit him because of all the potential talent entering the draft in 2008. However, if Thomas declares, he's a second-round prospect.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.