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The Hokies' QB is maturing, the team's offensive coordinator says, into a leader who isn't afraid to give orders and demand more.
STEVE HELBER | Associated Press
Quarterback Logan Thomas enters the season third on Virginia Tech’s all-time list in passing yards (6,096) and total offense (7,111), fourth in completions (466) and fifth in touchdown passes (37).
Sunday, August 25, 2013
BLACKSBURG — On the first day of training camp, the Hokies lined up for a few pass drills, basic routes with no defenders. Quarterback Logan Thomas zipped one on a rope, a perfectly thrown ball that bounced off the receiver’s hands and to the ground, prompting a few groans from onlookers.
New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler was quick to jump in with a biting take about not accepting drops. Thomas wasn’t far behind, muttering under his breath but loud enough for everyone to hear: “Catch the ball!”
This is Logan 2.0. The leaner, meaner leader of the Hokies, no longer content to just be an example for others to emulate. If something’s not right — a route, a cut, a drop — he’s letting people know.
“He wants to make sure that there’s no excuses for why everything doesn’t work out,” said Zack McCray, a junior tight end and Thomas’ cousin and roommate. “He wants to hold himself as well as other younger guys accountable.”
There were mechanical flaws that Loeffler, upon being hired in January as Tech’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, went about fixing in the offseason with the 6-foot-6, 254-pound Thomas, who nevertheless has all the physical tools NFL scouts desire. Specifically, working on body position in an effort to improve his accuracy.
But Loeffler, who has had success working with Tom Brady, Chad Henne and Tim Tebow in the past, knows mechanics only get you so far. It’s why he’s glad to see a meaner version of Thomas return from the offseason.
“Every great one that I’ve been around … they run the show,” Loeffler said. “It’s their team. And I see that in him.”
It’s unclear if that’s simply part of the natural maturation process for Thomas, a veteran who has said he no longer worries about what everyone thinks of him. That fiery demeanor also goes hand-in-hand with Loeffler, a combustible coach on the practice field, which belies his understated interview persona.
“Logan I think is a natural leader,” new receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said. “I think it took somebody to get it out of him like Coach Loeffler did, to let him understand that you don’t need to be friends with all these guys on the field to be a leader. And sometimes a leader is not the good guy.”
Moorehead, a former NFL receiver with the Indianapolis Colts who was an offensive assistant for Stanford prior to his arrival at Tech, has seen this evolution up close before. He witnessed Andrew Luck start to turn into a Peyton Manning-type leader near the end of his time with the Cardinal.
“Logan, you saw the transition from the spring,” Moorehead said. “He needs to be the guy to lead this team, especially on offense. And whether he wanted to or not, he’s the guy that everybody looks up to. At the end of the day, he’s our captain and we’re rolling with him.”
Regardless of how Thomas made that evolution, the Hokies will need Thomas to be on the top of his game, particularly with an offensive supporting cast that might not be much better than last year.
“This is his team, and we need him to do all the things he needs to do,” Loeffler said. “That doesn’t mean he needs to go outside the box and be Superman. When you try to be Superman is when you press and mistakes occur, because you’re trying to do too much.”
Thomas and Loeffler seem to have hit it off in their brief time together. Loeffler raves about Thomas’ work ethic and approach, comparing him favorably to the past standouts he’s coached.
“I wish to goodness I could coach him the rest of my career, to say the least,” Loeffler said. “I love being around him.”
Thomas has been equally complimentary of Loeffler, who, despite his past success, is in need of a bounce-back season of his own after a disastrous one-year coordinator stint at Auburn. The Tigers lacked a franchise quarterback, and Loeffler found himself in the crosshairs as the program took a nosedive.
Loeffler got axed when head coach Gene Chizik did but landed on his feet at Tech, where Beamer’s pro-style offensive concept seems in lockstep with former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, under whom Loeffler got his coaching start.
Thomas, who bypassed a chance to enter the NFL draft, and Loeffler quickly figured out they were a match. Thomas completed his undergraduate degree last winter, so his class load in the spring didn’t prevent him from devoting nearly all of his time to soaking in Loeffler’s teaching. He spent innumerable hours in Loeffler’s office.
“I didn’t sleep there,” Thomas said, “but I was the first one there and the last one to leave.”
That devotion extended to the offseason. Thomas took charge of the offseason workouts, throwing to young receivers in 7-on-7 drills to help build a rapport. McCray said Thomas woke him up at 5 a.m. a couple times to go throw on the practice field and work on his refined mechanics.
“He really grinded hard in the offseason,” McCray said. “It shows.”
How Thomas fares will ultimately color his college legacy. Now entering his third year as a starter, he has a chance to top all of Virginia Tech’s major passing statistical categories through sheer longevity.
Thomas enters the season third on Tech’s all-time list in passing yards (6,096) and total offense (7,111), fourth in completions (466) and fifth in touchdown passes (37). Even a modest season easily would put him first in all of those categories.
But he knows stats won’t make him remembered at Virginia Tech. League championships will. The three great quarterbacks of the last 15 years of the Frank Beamer era — Tyrod Taylor, Bryan Randall and Michael Vick — all accomplished that.
“What I want to be able to do is leave with an ACC championship like every other great Tech quarterback has done,” Thomas said. “That’s what I want to do, and that’s what I want my legacy to be. I don’t think I’m as bad as 7-6.”
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