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De'Anthony Thomas among college football's top little guys

Coming off last weekend's inspirational debut by 4-foot-9 Rice running back Jayson Carter, let's take stock of the little guys getting it done in college football. We hear "bigger is better" all the time, but smaller players are finding success as much as ever with teams creating specialized roles for undersized players so they can make plays in space. In the tradition of Darren Sproles and Wes Welker, here are five dynamic little guys making a big difference in some of college football's most explosive offenses (ranked from shortest to tallest):

Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant (5-6, 160 pounds)

Grant, who reported to Texas Tech at just 141 pounds, is really emerging as a sophomore. Last year he was much more of a novelty, kick-return guy, but he spent the offseason really working on refining his route-running and receiving skills. He wanted to become a full part of the offense, and he is now. He has made 38 catches -- five more than he made all of last season -- for 493 yards and four touchdowns. He contributes in the run game (nine carries for 67 yards) and is the team's top kickoff returner (nine for 213 yards).

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Kent State RB Dri Archer (5-8, 175)

Archer, a team captain, is a running back/slot receiver/kick returner who produces every way you want. He helped revive the Kent State program, leading it to the MAC championship game last season and setting a school record with 23 TDs in 2012. The Golden Flashes have struggled as a team this season -- they are 2-7 under first-year head coach Paul Haynes, but Archer has continued provide a key spark. He can do it all, as he showed in a loss to undefeated Northern Illinois earlier this season, catching a 66-yard touchdown pass and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a TD, tying a school record for longest return.

Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas (5-9, 169)

An ankle sprain has limited him for much of this season, but, when healthy, Thomas is one of the most explosive players in college football. He has sprinter's speed. He can beat you running it, catching it and returning it. The key to turning Thomas loose is finding a way to keep him in space and out of heavy traffic. He's still Oregon's No. 1 weapon, and every time he touches the ball, you get the sense he could take it all the way. The Ducks' junior is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this season and has scored seven TDs.

Oklahoma State WR Josh Stewart (5-10, 185)

Stewart is a versatile slot-type receiver that reminds me of Eddie Royal. He leads the team with 34 catches for 483 yards and two TDs. The Cowboys will line him up in the backfield occasionally (he has six rushes for 38 yards), and he's also a terrific punt returner -- he has two punt returns for TDs this season. Stewart is a well-built homerun hitter.

Western Kentucky RB Antonio Andrews (6-0, 219)

Andrews is not diminutive like some of his colleagues on this list, but he's not a big back. He did, however, lead the nation last season with 3,161 all-purpose yards. That made him one of only two players in FBS history to eclipse 3,000 all-purpose yards in a season. The other? Barry Sanders. Andrews is small but compact. This season he has already rushed for as many TDs as he had last season (11) and leads the nation with 1,512 yards from scrimmage. He has put up numbers against pretty good competition, including 111 rushing yards earlier this season vs. Tennessee, and hits you in every category -- he also returns kickoffs and punts. He's playing in Bobby Petrino's system this season, which will only help his development as an athlete for the next level. The Hilltoppers' star flashes every week.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.

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