It finally appears as if senior wide receiver Michael Thomas is finally getting the recognition he deserves as he was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List on Wednesday.
Thomas ranks in the top 25 nationally for receiving yards per game and would be higher in other categories if he had not missed the Austin Peay game and was not eased back into action against Texas State.
In seven games this season, Thomas has 653 yards and six touchdowns on 36 receptions. His best performance of the year came against North Texas when he had 155 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches.
While Thomas is a tremendous talent by himself, it would be hard for him to have these types of numbers if junior quarterback Nick Mullens was not having a breakout season in his own right.
Many followers of the Southern Miss program, media members including myself and fans alike, were clamoring for Mullens to start the season on the bench in favor of TCU transfer Tyler Matthews. It seemed as if Mullens was limited in what he could do and would never truly produce consistently at a high level.
But he has proven that to be false. He currently sits fifth in the nation with 2,613 passing yards, averaging 326.6 yards per game. Coming into this season, he had thrown nearly as many interceptions (23) as touchdowns (25) and had never completed 60 percent of his passes in nearly two seasons as the starter.
However, he has completely rewritten that narrative as he has three times as many touchdowns (21) as he does interceptions (7). While it is clear the talent around him has improved since he first became the starter as a true freshman, he has truly made a giant leap in his own progression as a quarterback.
He has improved his footwork, decision-making and accuracy tremendously this season as well as his overall leadership. It definitely does not hurt to have a dynamic threat on the outside like Thomas either.
While head coach Todd Monken does not buy into stats painting a picture as he has reiterated time and time again that you cannot carry over stats, the Mullens to Thomas connection is putting up stats comparable to almost any other duo in the country besides those either at TCU or Baylor.
USM’s dynamic duo arguably the biggest reason why Monken and company have turned around the Southern Miss program and sit just one win away from bowl eligibility with four more games to play.
Who knows? If Mullens and Thomas keep up at their current pace, they could be bringing home some hardware when award season rolls around.