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April 7, 2011

The spotlight's on Thomas as Hokies prepare for life without Taylor

By: Jimmy Robertson

Logan Thomas’ week off for Spring Break roughly a month ago was anything but a week at the beach.

He spent most of it in his hometown of Lynchburg, actually most of it at his home while his untrustworthy car sat in a repair shop with a litany of ailments. Thomas got his car back, but the unreliable 2003 Mitsubishi Gallant proved – well – unreliable yet again and needed another visit to an automobile’s training room.

“I’m not driving that anymore,” he said, laughing. “It’s just parked now.”

Instead, unless someone takes them from him in an improbable display this spring, he’s inherited the keys to a much more important ride – the smooth-running machine that is the Virginia Tech football program. How well he steers it will go a long way toward determining the Hokies’ 2011 destination.

Thomas, a hulking rising redshirt sophomore, takes over for Tyrod Taylor, one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Tech history – and also the winningest. Taylor threw for more than 2,700 yards last season, with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also won the ACC’s player of the year award. He holds virtually every passing and total offense record at Tech. But more importantly, he won 34 games as the Hokies’ starting quarterback.

For the first time in four springs, No. 5 will not be the primary signal caller. The honor now belongs to No. 3, who served as Taylor’s apprentice a year ago.

“There is if you let it get to you, but I’m trying to keep it out right now,” Thomas said of the pressure of replacing Taylor. “I try not to read any blogs or watch any ESPN ... what they say about it. I just keep to myself and focus on my studies and just stay with my friends so I can stay away from all that.”

Thomas appears to be well equipped to deal with any pressure. For starters, he got just enough playing time in a mop-up role last season to dust off the fears of playing in front of the cameras and bright lights. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes (only 26 attempts), but his third-down pass to Danny Coale at a critical point in the Miami game gave him tremendous confidence.

Physically, he stands 6-foot-6, and he weighs 245 pounds. He’s certainly not as elusive as Taylor, but he’s not a plodder either. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds in strength and conditioning testing before spring break.

Mentally, he’s spent two years in the quarterbacks meeting room with Mike O’Cain and Taylor and the rest of the quarterbacks. He knows Tech’s offense, probably inside and out. The question will be whether he knows opposing defenses well enough to exploit them.

As a quarterback, it’s not an either/or proposition. One must know both.

“I watched a lot more film than I did in the past,” he said. “A lot of it was just being able to read the defense and knowing where to go with the ball before the ball was snapped. That really helped me out knowing our play, what they were doing on defense and knowing where to go with the ball. I’d just have a little pause of the tape (before the snap), knowing what you have play-wise, then looking and you see Cover-1 or Cover-2, and then you know where to go with the ball.”

The Hokies’ ride possesses plenty of bells and whistles for Thomas. His entire receiving corps returns, led by Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and David Wilson provides an exciting option at tailback. Four very good starters return on the offensive line as well.

In other words, he’ll have plenty of horsepower.

Thomas has some things to work on, particularly his leadership skills. Oh, he possesses them, but O’Cain and the rest of Tech’s staff wants to see him use them.

“I guess he just wants me to speak up more and lead vocally, not only just running around out there and having energy,” Thomas said. “All throughout high school, that’s what I was. So it’s just getting adjusted and feeling comfortable doing it right now.”

At least one teammate doesn’t foresee Thomas having any trouble getting guys’ attention.

“He’s 6-6 and 250 pounds,” Wilson said. “I think he’ll be able to take control in the huddle.”

Spring practice has started, Thomas is at the wheel and he’s already hit the road. For sure, Tech fans are hoping it’s a ride that leads to a week at the beach for New Year’s.