Logan Thomas announced today that he will return to Virginia Tech for his senior season. The supremely gifted yet underachieving Thomas has an opportunity for redemption, potentially alongside a new offensive coordinator after the same.
Indeed, this has been an eventful week for Frank Beamer’s program. Multiple reports published on Monday had former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler replacing Bryan Stinespring. The SEC-and-Big Ten-bred Loeffler spent one season marred by disarray in Auburn.
Virginia Tech stumbled to a 7-6 finish in 2012. The Hokies needed to win their final two regular season games, just to reach a Russell Athletic Bowl they won in overtime. Their 13-10 defeat of Rutgers was hardly a fitting high note on which a quarterback could close his career.
“Going 7-6 left a bad taste in my mouth,” Thomas said to ESPN. “I think I have a lot to work on. I can get better.”
Coming off a season in which he completed just 51.3 percent of his 429 pass attempts for 2976 yards and threw almost as many interceptions (16) as touchdowns (18), Thomas’s decision to return for another year of refining before pursuing the NFL Draft would seem like a no-brainer.
Yet, the qualities that had some projecting big things from Thomas a year ago are still attractive to NFL scouts. At least, that’s the assessment of one Mel Kiper, who said in a conference call last week that the Virginia Tech quarterback is still in the “first round discussion.”
Shirking the Combine for another year can only improve Thomas’s stock. While the 2013 quarterback class is considered weak, the characteristics that make Thomas a potential first rounder this year aren’t going away a year from now. Thomas will still be 6-foot-6 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 pounds with a powerful arm and proven running ability.
Another season sharpening his skill set and producing tangible results gives Thomas a more complete resume to offer NFL GMs. This NFL season proved two points pertaining to Thomas: No. 1 was that dual threat quarterbacks have a valuable niche in the evolving league. Three teams reached the postseason with quarterbacks whose styles are labeled dual threat in the traditional sense: Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. A fourth, Aaron Rodgers, is a more-than-capable freelancer when situations call for his feet. The NFL is changing, and Thomas boasts skills that fit both the traditional mold and the new style of play maker.
No. 2 is a rookie quarterback capable of immediate contribution will have opportunitites. Griffin, Wilson, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Lindley and Nick Foles all started in 2012. Only Griffin and Luck were early entries into the draft.
On the opposite side of the coin, Thomas runs some risk of regression. A 2012 season without David Wilson sharing the Hokie backfield put a heavier burden on Thomas, and his production dipped across the board. Virginia Tech needs Tony Gregory, J.C. Coleman or both to emerge as a more reliable ball carrying option. Thomas racked up a staggering 174 rushes last season. While his running ability is valuable, that’s a lot of punishment to sustain in one campaign, and renders an offense one-dimensional. An improved run game is also vital with Tech replacing three of its top receivers.
New Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Loeffler’s proven before that he can integrate a successful, multifaceted run game utilizing a two-way quarterback. As Temple’s offensive coordinator in 2011, the Owls averaged just shy of 31 points per game, employing both feature back Bernard Pierce, and change-of-pace style rusher Matt Brown. Late in the season, dual threat Chris Coyer flourished with 69 carries for 562 yards and six passing touchdowns to zero interceptions.
Loefller also has experience working both with future NFL quarterbacks, and one of the most successful dual threat players in college history. He spent six seasons, from 2002 through 2007, as quarterbacks coach at Michigan. Four were spent coaching current professional player Chad Henne.
As quarterbacks coach at Florida in 2009, Loeffler worked with former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Tebow had an outstanding senior campaign, completing almost 68 percent of his pass attempts and throwing 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions, all while rushing for over 900 yards.
In Thomas, Loeffler would inherit a quarterback who is the best of both those worlds: a quarterback with the NFL measurables like Henne, and one capable of running a diversified, spread offense like Tebow. The key is striking a balance that maximizes both of those qualities.
Loeffler also has detractors to disprove should he land in Blacksburg. His one-year stint at Auburn hardly went according to plan. Loeffler replaced Gus Malzahn, architect of the 2010 BCS championship-winning Tigers’ offense and current Auburn head coach. Loeffler inherited an undesirable situation.
Auburn lost its primary offensive piece before the season, running back Michael Dyer, a two-time 1000-plus-yard rusher. Head coach Gene Chizik also played musical chairs at quarterback, playing Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Jonathan Wallace intermittently.
There’s no doubt who the quarterback is in Blacksburg. Once the doubt of Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator is clear, and it is Loeffler, Thomas is a tremendous foundation from which to start building.