Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Talkin' Virginia Tech offense

Logan Thomas looks like Tech's QB of the future

BLACKSBURG -- The touts were wrong. The tight end of the future is no such thing.

Logan Thomas is a quarterback. And eventually, he's going to be a star in college football at that position.

Not that I blame the touts. They do their research. And frankly, Thomas is a tough dude to classify. Stands 6-foot-6, runs well, has a cannon arm, shows smarts, exhibits poise. Someone such as this must play right away. (who ranked Thomas the No. 1 tight end recruit in the nation) and (No. 3 tight end) figured he'd end up catching passes off the line as a freshman.

Funny thing, though. Virginia Tech doesn't need a guy to catch balls. The Hokies need somebody who can throw them.

Thomas can. So that's why we're all here, in this nebulous zone of hypotheticals, talking about when Thomas will get his shot.

Let's be clear here: The Hokies are doing the right thing by keeping Thomas at quarterback. Just look at senior Vic Hall up in Charlottesville, who finally is getting his chance under center this year, if you want to find a guy who was moved away from his proper position prematurely because of team need.

So thank Greg Boone and Andre Smith and Sam Wheeler in part for this. They'll staff the tight end position just fine in 2009.

Thomas belongs where he is, under center. That's where he played brilliantly at Brookville High School. And I challenge anyone who saw Saturday's scrimmage at Lane Stadium to tell me Thomas looked like a freshman out there.

Against one of the best defenses in the country, he showed composure. He showed confidence. And despite some mistakes -- a deflected interception among them -- he showed that he can lead this team once Tyrod Taylor is gone, presumably after next season.

"I don't think there's any question in my mind, unless things just went haywire on us," said Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain, when asked if Thomas would stay at that position indefinitely. "I see a very talented young man. Tremendous arm. He's very accurate for the most part. I like his personality. He's calm. He's confident. He handles himself well in the pocket, moves around well in the pocket, so he's got all the intangibles plus the physical tools to be able to get it done."

On Thursday, the Tech coaches informed Thomas of their plan. It's a lot like the plan the Hokies had for Marcus Vick and Sean Glennon a few years back (which worked) and the one they had for Glennon and Taylor last year (which didn't work): Thomas would redshirt unless he was forced to play because of injury or some other unforeseen factor involving the starting QB.

"It was disappointing, but I understand where they're coming from," said Thomas, who'd hoped to play somewhere this year. "It's not always a bad thing. Michael Vick redshirted as well, so it's all right."

On Saturday, Thomas was pulled from the special-teams units where he'd been projected as a starter. That was the first real sign that the Hokies were serious about making him the quarterback of the future.

As for when he'll take his first snaps in a game, that's a mystery. If Taylor were to go down with an injury before the Sept. 5 opener against Alabama, Ju-Ju Clayton likely would get the nod. He's been in the system longer and has a better grasp of the offense, so he'd get the initial opportunity.

"At least for the first play," O'Cain said. "I'd personally have more confidence in Ju-Ju going out there and running the team. Could either one of them go out there and win a game for you right now? I don't know that."

Which is why Thomas is still taking an equal number of reps at backup with Clayton, even though the best-case scenario has Thomas never seeing the field this year. Beamer said they've both earned the right to keep battling.

Thomas will. And eventually, he'll win it.

So in a sense, the touts have been right all along. Thomas is an athletic freak.

He'll prove it soon enough.

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