Dec. 8, 2008
TUCSON, Ariz. – Three Arizona Wildcats were named to the All-Pac-10 First Team, while two others were named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team, the league office announced on Monday afternoon.
Senior wide receiver Mike Thomas was named a first team member on offense for a second consecutive season. He remains three receptions shy of Derek Hagan’s 258 all-time receptions mark, which is best in league history, but his stats in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 20 will count towards his career numbers. To date in 2008, Thomas has hauled in 70 receptions for 796 yards and four touchdowns. He has also added 102 yards rushing and a score on the ground.
A 5-8 native of DeSoto, Texas, Thomas also earned first team recognition as a punt returner, becoming only the 12th player in Pac-10 history to earn two first team honors in the same season. Thomas has twice been named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week in 2008 thanks to his punt return prowess, which has yielded an average of 14.0 yards per return and two electrifying scores this season.
Sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski was one of only three unanimous first team selections this season. Despite missing the first three games of the season due to illness, Gronkowski has 43 receptions for 645 yards for an impressive 15.0 yards per catch. UA’s all-time leader at the position in every statistical category, Gronkowski has 10 touchdown receptions to his credit in only nine games this season.
Junior offensive tackle Eben Britton was also named to the All-Pac-10 first team. While individual statistics are tough to come by, Britton has been a dominating force on an offensive line that has paved the way for the breakout season’s by Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin. As a team, the Wildcats have posted the second-best scoring mark in school history at 37.1 points per game, due in large part to the improved running game. The Wildcats, who scored seven rushing touchdowns in 2007, have 31 total rushing scores on the year in 2008 and have rushed for 1,968 yards.
Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama, an honorable mention selection in 2007, was named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team. Tuitama has turned in his most consistent season despite seeing his passing numbers decrease due to the improved running game. Even so, the fourth-year signal caller has tossed 21 touchdowns to only eight interceptions, while completing 64.6 percent of his passes. Arizona’s all-time career leader in every passing category, Tuitama has thrown for 2,763 yards on the season.
Devin Ross, who patiently waited during his first two seasons behind four-year stalwarts Wilrey Fontenot and 2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner Antoine Cason, was also named to the All-Pac-10 second team as a cornerback. Ross stepped in immediately to become a force in the secondary for the Wildcats and has three interceptions to his credit in 2008, including a game-changing 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in UA’s 42-27 over then-No.24 California. He ranks tied for seventh nationally with his 13 passes defended, and has added 44 tackles, which checks in at sixth on the team.
In addition to the above-mentioned players, eight other Wildcats received honorable mention recognition. Offensively, center Colin Baxter and running back Nic Grigsby were recognized. Defensively, tackle Earl Mitchell, safety Cam Nelson, linebacker Ronnie Palmer and defensive end Brooks Reed were listed. On special teams, punter Kennyn Crier and place kicker Jason Bondzio also received recognition.
All-Pac-10 selections are made by the Pac-10 head coaches.