VT vs. UCLA: Can Logan Thomas Save His NFL Draft Stock in Sun Bowl?

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2013

Logan Thomas
Logan ThomasMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At 6'6" and 254 pounds, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas looks like the ideal NFL QB. Thomas, who came to Blacksburg as a tight end, is extremely athletic for a man of his size and possesses one of the strongest arms in all of college football.

No doubt, Thomas should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, right?

Not so fast.

After an outstanding sophomore season in 2011—his first year as a starter—Thomas has been one of the most inconsistent players in college football the past two years.

However, on Tuesday, Thomas and the Hokies will play No. 17 UCLA in the Sun Bowl. The Bruins, led by outside linebacker Anthony Barr, have an impressive defensive front, and a solid performance by Thomas against UCLA could revive his declining draft stock. 

Logan Thomas vs. Michigan in the Sugar Bowl
Logan Thomas vs. Michigan in the Sugar BowlMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

In 2011, Thomas completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards and tossed 19 touchdowns to go along with 10 interceptions. He led the Hokies to an appearance in the ACC title game—something Hokies fans were accustomed to—and an overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

The arrow was definitely pointing up for Thomas until a 2012 campaign that saw the Hokies have their worst season in 20 years. Thomas completed just 51 percent of his passes, and his interception total rose to 16. 

Many VT fans were optimistic that 2012 was an aberration and Thomas would rebound this season. It didn't happen. Much like last year, Thomas had some big moments where he showed tremendous potential, while there were other games—like Alabama and Duke—where he looked like he didn't belong on the field. 

And for the first time since the inception of the ACC Championship Game in 2005, the Hokies haven't won the Coastal Division once in a two-year period.

No, everything isn't Thomas' fault. The offensive line has been bad. The Hokies have been unable to replace David Wilson the past two years, and losing the top two receivers in school history, Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, after 2011, hurt Thomas tremendously. 

Also, much more is asked of Thomas than most QBs. He led the team in rushing last season and was second on the team this year. 

But through it all, many draft observers have felt Thomas will go much higher than his on-field performance would dictate. In fact, there is a definite split in the scouting community on Thomas.

Legendary Dallas Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt, who now works for NFL.com, believes Thomas needs to change positions at the next level.

However, the folks at Optimum Scouting believe Thomas is more of a victim of the youth and lack of talent around him.

With his size, arm, athletic ability and experience, Thomas will find at least one NFL team, or perhaps more than one, that will take a chance on his vast physical talent. A team with a good, solid veteran QB can afford to put Thomas on the bench for a few years and allow him to develop.

A strong performance on New Year's Eve would go a long way in improving Thomas' stock. He is facing a stout defense in a game facing little opposition on other networks. Scouts from across the country will be watching this game intently.

If the Hokies are to have a chance at beating the Bruins, they need a strong performance by their senior signal-caller. 

With Trey Edmunds out for Tech, J.C. Coleman will get the bulk of the workload in the Hokies running game. Thomas will be heavily featured, too.

Thomas must get the ball out of his hands quickly, and when he gets chances to make a play downfield, he must connect. Remember, Thomas is set to play in the Senior Bowl next month, so a strong performance in his team's bowl game followed by a strong week in Mobile could do wonders for Thomas.

Remember how well it worked out for EJ Manuel last year?

Manuel was viewed as no more than a third-round pick after the 2012 season. Then he had a strong Orange Bowl performance followed by a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl in front of NFL coaches. Manuel went on to become the first QB selected in the 2013 NFL draft.

Thomas will not be the first QB taken in the 2014 draft. He could, however, get himself into the first-round discussion, and that will begin in earnest this Tuesday when the Hokies face UCLA in the Sun Bowl.