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Only two starting quarterbacks in Virginia Tech history have presided over more wins, but senior Logan Thomas is still struggling to overcome his association with the Hokies' worst season in 20 years.
The Roanoke Times | File September
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has already thrown a school-record 588 completions and rushed for 23 touchdowns.
The Roanoke Times | File August
Logan Thomas has won 24 games in three years as a starter, third on the Hokies' all-time list.
The Roanoke Times | File September
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas already holds several Virginia Tech records.
The Roanoke Times | File April
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas signs autographs. A small but vocal portion of the fan base has continued to call for his backup throughout Thomas' career.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Perhaps the most telling throw of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas’ season didn’t go for a touchdown and certainly didn’t make any of the highlight reels.
It came early in the fourth quarter against North Carolina. Thomas took a shotgun snap, stood in the pocket while quickly scanning and processing his way through all of his progressions. In about three seconds, he had made decisions not to throw to four different receivers, instead finding his fifth read, fullback Jerome Wright, who had spun free from coverage across the middle.
Thomas zipped a pass to him in stride for a 16-yard gain and a first down.
“He came off; he was all jacked up,” first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “He says, ‘I’m a rock star now. I made it to No. 5.’ … I was really, really happy for him. And it was on time; it was in rhythm. It looked like you’re supposed to look.”
Just about everything about Thomas looks better his senior season. His mechanics are more refined. His numbers are better. And the team’s record — what he feels quarterbacks are judged by the most — is vastly improved.
Yet his complicated and incomplete legacy, fair or not, will largely be defined by the final five to seven games of this season.
He’s the Hokies’ career leader in completions and passing yards and is tied for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Barring injury, he’ll soon own Tech’s records in total offense and passing touchdowns, in part due to sheer longevity — marks that should already have secured his place in Hokies history.
But he also presided over Virginia Tech’s worst season in 20 years, has had his share of struggles (notably 32 career interceptions) and fell victim to premature hype, touted as a top-five pick before a pedestrian 2012 season. Now, he’s trying to show he should be considered at all among this year’s deep group of top quarterbacks.
He’s won 24 games in three years as a starter, trailing only Tyrod Taylor and Bryan Randall on Tech’s all-time list, yet until a few weeks ago he couldn’t throw two or three incompletions in a row without a small but vocal portion of the fan base incessantly calling for his backup, Mark Leal, to enter the game.
Thomas’ steely reserve has blocked out such outside criticism for a while now. He said the career records are great, but he knows the omission on his r esum e that separates him from Hokies luminaries like Taylor, Randall and Michael Vick is winning a conference championship.
A 6-1 start and No. 19 ranking is encouraging, but the Hokies’ season — and ultimately Thomas’ place in school annals — might be cemented by whether or not Virginia Tech can make it back to Charlotte in December for the ACC championship game and make some noise.
“I think that’s how everyone views playing football in general,” Thomas said. “You’re viewed at the championships you win, the wins and losses column. I couldn’t care less about my stats. I just want to go out there and win a championship.”
He’s done work already this year to ensure he has that shot. Thomas has thrown for 1,451 yards, with nine touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games, adding 157 yards and three scores on the ground, stats that don’t jump off the page .
But he’s done so without a consistent running game to provide balance and despite throwing to receivers who took several weeks to develop, with more than a few early drops.
He’s been more efficient. Thomas’ completion percentage sits in line with his career total at 55.2 percent, up nearly four points from last year but still lagging because of the 5-for-26, drop-filled opener against Alabama.
In ACC play the last three weeks, however, he has completed 65.5 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Thomas has thrown 109 passes since his last interception, 10 shy of the longest stretch of his career in 2011.
“I’ve felt like I’ve been great all season,” Thomas said. “The interceptions I do have, one of them is a bad decision. Other than that, I’ve played well. I think it’s just a whole thing of everybody just starting to come together, starting to understand how the offense works.”
Perhaps, but Thomas has undergone a noticeable transformation under Loeffler, who was hired last January to run the offense. The kind of progressions he was so amped to get through against North Carolina weren’t emphasized under the previous staff.
The mechanical things that Loeffler prizes — mostly having to do with Thomas’ lower body — weren’t as much of a focus last year. It’s constant this year. Loeffler got on Thomas this week at practice for not closing his throwing motion far enough, even though he completed a pass.
“I was never coached to the point of how to use my body when I was throwing it,” Thomas said, unapologetically, about previous years. “Everything up to the point when Loeffler started teaching me was going out there and throwing from how I taught myself, I guess.”
In the spring, Loeffler held off showing Thomas film of himself from last year, just so he could see how far he had come by the end of practice. Now, he doesn’t want the quarterback even looking at last year’s film.
“He says, ‘We don’t need to go back into those habits. You don’t need to see it,’ ” Thomas said.
Loeffler has seen the film. He doesn’t buy into the notion that Thomas regressed too much last year or that now he’s somehow returned to the Logan from 2011 that had NFL scouts salivating.
“I’m kind of tired of hearing that, to be honest with you,” said Loeffler, who has seen a constantly improving quarterback and an unwavering leader in his time with Thomas.
“There are so many factors that go into good and bad quarterback play that people don’t see. And do see. There are times that he did some things that are great, that everyone thinks were great, and they weren’t great. And there were times when things went bad that he was doing his job.
“I’m not buying into that. At all. And I haven’t, obviously.”
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