The 2012 college football season could not have gone any worse for Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Projected by many as one of the top NFL prospects in all of college football after a breakout 2011 campaign, Thomas regressed last season.
The Hokies, who had eight straight seasons of at least 10 wins, finished 7-6 —their worst record in 20 years.
Thomas’ struggles were a big reason the Hokies took a step back in 2012. He threw 16 interceptions last season after throwing 10 in his first season as a starter. His touchdowns and passing yards were down, too.
Besides the Hokies’ record, the most disturbing area where Thomas struggled was his accuracy. Thomas completed almost 60 percent of his passes as a sophomore. That dipped to 51 percent last season.
In watching each of the Hokies’ games last season, Thomas clearly had little help. In 2011, Thomas had record-setting running back David Wilson and the top two wide receivers in school history, Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. All were in the NFL in 2012.
The Hokies struggled all along the offensive line, which caused the always-strong running game to languish. Thomas actually led the team in rushing with 726 yards. That can’t be the case this season if the Hokies expect to compete for the ACC title.
So how can Thomas improve in 2013?
The first positive change for Thomas came in January when former longtime offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was reassigned on the coaching staff. That led to the hiring of Scot Loeffler to be the team’s new leader on offense.
Loeffler, a former quarterback at Michigan in the early and mid-90s, came to Blacksburg via Auburn. Loeffler’s one season at Auburn didn’t turn out well; however, he has a good track record of working with talented quarterbacks. At one point or another, Loeffler has coached Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Chad Henne and Tim Tebow.
The offense Loeffler is installing at Virginia Tech would seem to be a good fit for Thomas’ talents. Loeffler plans to run a balanced pro-style offense that emphasizes throwing the ball down the field. Thomas, at 6’6”, 257 pounds, possesses a cannon for a right arm and is suited to an offense that features his arm strength.
When Thomas threw from the pocket in 2012, he often did so while he was off-balance, which often led to the ball sailing on him. This likely had a lot to do with his accuracy issues. Not to mention, Thomas didn’t have the time in the pocket he did the year before and often forced the ball.
All offseason, Loeffler has worked with Thomas on refining his mechanics. When Loeffler spoke to the media in April, he said things were going well with Thomas. Simple things, such as footwork, led to some of Thomas’ struggles, according to Loeffler.
Many of the issues facing Thomas can be corrected. And Thomas is one to put in the time and work to make those changes. One thing to watch is how Thomas will work with a completely new group of pass-catchers.
Senior D.J. Coles returns, but he didn’t play last year. Sophomore Demitri Knowles and freshmen Joshua Stanford, Joel Caleb and Charley Meyer all expect to be in the mix at receiver in 2013. Of the four young guys, all are talented, but only Knowles has caught a pass from Thomas in an actual game.
Stanford had an impressive spring, culminated by a strong performance in the spring game. At the ACC Football Kickoff in July, Thomas gushed about Meyer and the impact he thinks he will have in 2013. That would seem to indicate Thomas has confidence in Meyer.
The spring game featured Thomas and backup Mark Leal throwing a lot to the tight ends. This would be good news for the Hokies. They have a pair of talented juniors in Ryan Malleck and Zack McCray at the position. In recent seasons, Stinespring’s offense rarely ever featured the tight end being involved in the passing game.
Another positive change for Thomas this offseason was what he described as a “meaner” version of himself, according to Virginia Tech Sports. Last year’s team seemed to lack leadership, and Thomas put much of that blame on himself. According to CBSSports.com writer Jeremy Fowler, he encouraged teammates to always give max effort, whether it was in the weight room or on the practice field, rather than doing the “bare minimum.”
Can Thomas put all these things together and be the player many expected him to be before the 2012 season?
Absolutely, but is there enough help around him to ensure the kind of improvement Thomas expects from himself?
Thomas is the key to the Hokies' success in 2013. If he puts everything together and becomes a more consistent passer, the Hokies will be playing in the ACC title game in December. Such a performance will also boost Thomas’ stock in the eyes of NFL scouts again.
If he doesn’t, you could see back-to-back mediocre seasons in Blacksburg for the first time in over 20 years.