ACC Week: One Big Question for Virginia Tech, Can Logan Thomas Lead Hokies to Promised Land?


Since joining the ACC in the 2004 season, Virginia Tech has been the conference’s standard bearer. The Hokies represented the league as its champion in BCS bowls in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and last season reached the Sugar Bowl as an at-large.

And yet, Va. Tech is not a program often discussed with the game’s elite of the past decade, like Ohio State, Florida, Texas or Alabama. The Hokies are afterthoughts, perhaps indicative of the overall state of ACC football.

After all, the conference has just a single win in the BCS since its expansion in the mid-2000s (Va. Tech’s 2009 Orange Bowl defeat of Cincinnati), and zero title game appearances. For every league championship, double digit-win campaign Frank Beamer’s team has put together, there’s invariably a flaw keeping it from competing for the grand prize.

Many of those were teams better than the upcoming Hokie squad, at least on paper. Beamer loses work horse tailback David Wilson and his 1709 yards of production. Also gone are leading receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin.

So why is VPI a team that yours truly is watching for a potential run to Miami and the BCS championship game?

Logan Thomas.

Va. Tech last played for the crystal ball in the 1999 season as a member of the Big East, and with a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback manning the offense. Thomas may not be Michael Vick, but the VPI quarterback’s ceiling is very high. Frankly, I don’t believe we have seen just how good he can be.

Thomas and Vick comparisons would be solely predicated on each wearing maroon and orange. However, Thomas has drawn Cam Newton comparisons. Such comparisons stem from the two having similar size and an ability to rush. The same principles can be applied to Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. The Newton comparison could become football’s version of the 1990s, when every athletic two-guard from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7 was anointed the next Michael Jordan. Such labeling was applied to Harold Miner, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter and many more.

Now, Newton’s incredible 2010 season is among the most difficult to replicate in college football like Tim Tebow’s 2007, or Barry Sanders’ 1988. That goes beyond his statistical output.

Where I take a leap of faith is that what made Newton so special was that his individual play was so critical to Auburn’s going undefeated. For as good as Robert Griffin III was last season, even he lost three times. I’m wondering aloud if Thomas can be good enough to power the Va. Tech offense to a championship campaign.

Should an undefeated regular season be in Tech’s future, Thomas will have a more significant impact on it than perhaps some other quarterbacks. Replacing Wilson will prove no easy feat, so expect Thomas’ No. 3 to be called often in September. He was good for a team best 11 rushing touchdowns last season, and 469 total yards.

For his rushing to truly take off, Thomas must be more effective passing the ball. His completion percentage was below 60 (59.8) and he failed to achieve a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (19:10). His accuracy was vastly improved per spring scrimmage reports, a nice building block while the offense discovers its identity.

The offense will get an additional boost from the breathing room its defense is sure to provide. It’s astounding that Bud Foster has never been snatched up as a head coach elsewhere, because the units he regularly turns out are among the nation’s best. The 2012 Hokies are experienced and deep, returning Antone Exum, J.R. Collins, Kyle Fuller and Tariq Edwards, four of the six leading tacklers last season. Meanwhile, ballyhooed recruits like Zack McCray are lined up for more prominent roles.

Defense won’t be an issue, but that’s always the case in Blacksburg. Thomas is the X-factor in rewriting the program’s common refrain.