While many of his classmates undoubtedly spent spring break in tropical climates, soaking in rays and paying too much for watered-down drinks, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas was on the beach for a very different reason.
The Hokies’ junior quarterback spent a week in San Diego in March, working out for four days with quarterback-coach-to-the-stars George Whitfield, whose roster of clients has included Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.
Whitfield’s ever-evolving training regimen included a trip to the beach, where the 6'6", 262-pound Thomas waded knee-deep into the Pacific Ocean, then simulated taking drop-backs through the uneven current, trying to keep his balance and maintain a solid base. He caught on quickly, a recurring theme from the trip.
“I just think he’s going to be a very, very special college football player,” says Whitfield, who raves about Thomas’ size, agility and smarts. “To see him up close and personal and how diligent he is and just how big of a man he is, he’s going to be scary. It’s kind of a shock and awe thing when it all comes together.”
Virginia Tech is starting to get spoiled with its quarterbacks. After four years of Tyrod Taylor, who left after 2010 as the school’s all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, quarterback rushing yards and career wins, the Hokies seamlessly passed the baton to Thomas, who served as Taylor’s understudy for two seasons before taking a prime-time role last year.
He looked every bit the part, breaking Taylor’s single-season total offense mark with 3,482 yards and accounting for 30 touchdowns on his way to a second-team All-ACC selection.
Thomas’ 3,013 passing yards were second-most in a season for a Tech quarterback to Don Strock’s mark of 3,243 set in 1972. His 11 rushing touchdowns were tied for the most by a quarterback in school history and were three more than the program’s standard-bearer — Michael Vick — ever had in a season. And it all happened in Thomas’ first year as a starter.
“I think it’s rare for most people,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer says of Thomas’ maturity. “But I think Logan’s in a different category.”
Thomas’ rapid rise is even more remarkable considering his background. A multi-sport star at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va., about 100 miles east of Blacksburg, he thought of himself as a basketball player for most of his life. On the football field, he played receiver until moving to quarterback his final two years, earning state Player of the Year honors as a senior and leading his team to the championship game, a 50–46 loss in which he threw four touchdowns.
Still, he considered his best path in college to be at tight end or H-back, going so far as to eliminate any school that recruited him solely as a quarterback. Virginia Tech obliged, getting him to sign in February 2009. During his first practice in August, Hokies coaches, in a bit of a switcheroo, urged him to try throwing the ball. He was raw, but the skill set, which included a cannon for an arm, was evident.
The reluctant quarterback soon embraced the position, redshirting that first year and serving as a backup in 2010. He sat in on meetings with Taylor, the team’s entrenched starter, soaking up whatever he could. Reps in the spring and fall became crucial as he tried to play catch-up at the position.
“Most people, they spend their whole lives gearing to be a quarterback at this level,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. “Football camps, quarterback camps. Logan in high school didn’t really play quarterback until he was a junior, then he picked up a basketball, then he ran track, and he picked up a football again Aug. 5. …
“I think because of that, you’re still going to see a guy who continuously improves. He still has the opportunity I believe — and he believes — to have better days in front of him.”
With all eyes on him last year, Thomas calmly guided the Hokies to their eighth straight season of 10 or more wins and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Somewhat shaky at first, with five interceptions in the first five games, Thomas found a comfort level, accounting for 25 touchdowns in the final nine games, including five each in crucial Coastal Division wins against Miami and Georgia Tech.
Although Thomas no doubt draws comparisons to Newton, another 6'5", 250-plus-pound athlete who redefined the dual-threat quarterback in the college game two years ago, he’s not quite the same runner. While Thomas is a load to take down in the open field — he dragged half the Georgia Tech defense into the end zone on a 12-yard quarterback sneak in November — he much prefers to move around in the pocket and throw it.
“He’s incredibly agile and athletic for being such a big man,” Whitfield says. “The only other person I’ve been around that’s that size and that athletic is Ben Roethlisberger. Him and Ben are both slightly bigger than Cam. And they’re both light on their feet. I’m sure in some alternate universe, these guys could be free safeties.”
The big challenge comes this year. Thomas was blessed last season with a veteran offensive line featuring four fifth-year starters, a pair of wideouts who ranked 1-2 on Tech’s all-time receiving list and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year who ran for over 1,700 yards. They’re all gone now, and Virginia Tech must re-tool with eight new starters on offense. But with Thomas, the Hokies have a chance to duplicate last year’s success.
Tech coaches have thrown everything in the playbook at him, but he’s taken it in stride. Teammates describe Thomas as being more relaxed this spring. Even he admits he was too uptight at times last year.
“I wanted to be perfect with everything,” Thomas says. “Sometimes you can’t be perfect on every snap. And I kind of beat myself up about it, but this year you kind of let it roll off your back, because you know there’s the next down coming. That’s kind of just something I learned through the second half of our season.”
Thomas’ future is bright enough that it has many Hokies fans worried he could enter the NFL Draft after his junior year. Whitfield, who has frequent discussions with pro scouts and coaches, believes Thomas will be in the discussion as one of the top-rated quarterbacks whenever he decides to go.
“He absolutely could be a No. 1 pick,” Whitfield says.
Tech is preparing for the possibility, with quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O’Cain acknowledging that if Thomas is projected as a high first-round draft pick, it will be tough to turn down (although highly touted quarterbacks like 2012 NFL No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones have done just that recently, returning for their senior seasons).
“I believe he feels that the more he plays, the better it’s going to give him his foundation for the NFL,” O’Cain says. “And again, you never know if he just goes out and has a phenomenal year, and I hope he does. I hope he has a phenomenal year …” O’Cain pauses and laughs before finishing his thought. “But just not a high first-round draft choice.”
— by Andy Bitter
This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual.
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