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Arizona's undersized Thomas is tall on production

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona receiver Mike Thomas understands. Yes, he's short. That's an observation he hears everywhere, as if folks believe it's part of his name. And he's resigned to the fact that every smirking sportswriter will add an adverb like "generously" before noting Thomas is "listed at 5-foot-8."

So he just catches and runs, catches and runs, and hopes that maybe somebody notices him doing a lot of that down in the desert.

A lot? How about all-time Pac-10 a lot?

After three seasons, Thomas has hauled in 185 passes for 2,406 yards. If he duplicates last year's production -- which earned him first-team All-Pac-10 honors -- of 83 catches for 1,038 yards, he'll eclipse former Arizona State star Derek Hagan's Pac-10 career record of 258 receptions.

Not only that, Thomas will rise to No. 6 on the conference receiving yards list. In the process, he'll completely rewrite Arizona's receiving record book.

"I've heard (about the records) but I don't pay much attention to them," he said. "And it's not said until it's done. I try not to focus on them. Hopefully, those things will happen to me and then when I get older I can tell my kids and my buddies -- 'Yeah, that's me. I'm the No. 1 this and that.'"

As far as matching last year's numbers, that shouldn't be much of a problem. Thomas is one of 10 starters back from an offense that ranked 10th in the nation with 308.5 yards passing per game in 2007. It's also reasonable to assume that things will run even smoother in year two of offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' spread offense.

Moreover, this is Thomas' third year catching passes from quarterback Willie Tuitama. While Thomas is brash and Tuitama is reserved, they clearly have an on-field connection.

"In my head, I say 'throw it' and he lets it go," Thomas said.

There's even more reason to believe Tuitama will be flinging the ball to Thomas more than ever this season: The Wildcats welcome back just three starters from last year's disappointingly mediocre defense.

The 'Cats probably are going to need to score a lot of points to win, though Thomas claims he's only "a little" worried about the defense.

"We've got a young defense and a lot of them are eager to get their names out there," he said. "We have a bunch of young gorillas running around who are anxious to do something and help the team."

Help the team and then help coach Mike Stoops keep his job. The general feeling is Arizona needs to reach its first bowl game since 1998 in order for Stoops to return in 2009.

Thomas admitted it was hard for players to ignore the pressure on their coach.

"But that's not our jurisdiction," he said. "We don't have any control over if he stays or if he goes. We just try to play through that. That's the financial people with the big money. But we'd hate to see something like that, and it wouldn't be right. But that's how it is."

Speaking of how it is, Thomas knows the NFL will be skeptical about him. You may have heard that Thomas is short. The NFL prefers its receivers to be less vertically challenged; no matter that his dimensions approximate Carolina Panthers All-Pro Steve Smith.

"I've looked at the [draft] boards, and it's all because of my height," he said. "But it's kind of like I'm the underdog. So it doesn't do anything but make me hungrier."