ACC: Mike O\'Cain

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March, 19, 2013
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Four teams open spring practice today. Still have three to go.

2012 report cards: Virginia Tech

January, 31, 2013
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VIRGINIA TECH

OFFENSE: Watching the Hokies’ offense in 2012 was like staring at the numbers on a treadmill -- you’re just waiting and waiting for them to move. The Hokies went nowhere fast this year, and it didn’t get much better as the season went on. Possibly more troubling than the lack of improvement was the lack of physical toughness, both from a blocking standpoint by the receivers, and from the offensive line. There was plenty of blame to go around, and it did -- three assistants were hired, including Scot Loeffler as offensive coordinator. Former coordinator Bryan Stinespring took over as recruiting coordinator, and play-caller Mike O’Cain was reportedly fired. Virginia Tech’s running game never found a true identity, and ranked No. 79 in the country. The scoring offense was No. 81 in the country, averaging 25.08 points per game. Quarterback Logan Thomas seemed to take a step back, but he certainly didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. In the end, the losses from 2011 were too much for Virginia Tech to overcome in one season. Grade: F

DEFENSE: At least this group got better as the season went on. Against Pitt, Bud Foster’s defense was manhandled, particularly up front. It was shocking, really, that Pitt racked up 537 total yards. Against Rutgers, though, in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Virginia Tech’s defense was the difference in the game. The Hokies finished No. 18 in the country in total defense, and No. 32 in scoring defense at 22.85 points per game. It was a strong finish after allowing Pitt 35 points and UNC 48 points. In the final three games of the season -- all wins -- Virginia Tech allowed its opponents an average of 15.6 points per game. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it certainly wasn’t as good as many had expected it would be, either. Grade: C

OVERALL: Virginia Tech, ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press preseason poll, was either one of college football’s biggest disappointments in 2012 or the expectations were far too high considering how many new starters there were on offense. An overwhelming favorite to win the Coastal Division, Virginia Tech instead was an afterthought in the ACC race as its bowl eligibility came down to the final regular-season game against rival Virginia. The program’s worst season in 20 years at least ended on a positive note with a bowl win, but the coaching was often below-average, as evidenced by the most drastic staff changes Frank Beamer has made since 2006. In this case, it was the Xs, the Os, the Jimmy's and the Joe's. Grade: D

More grades
Virginia Tech fans have been clamoring for change for a long, long time.

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Will Virginia Tech benefit in 2013 from its recent offensive staff shakeup?

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After what was the worst season in 20 years, coach Frank Beamer had little choice this offseason but to finally oblige.

On Friday, Virginia Tech's offensive staff underwent a monumental makeover. Play-caller Mike O'Cain is gone. Offensive line coach Curt Newsome is gone. Receivers coach Kevin Sherman is already at Purdue. Bryan Stinespring has been reassigned. In comes former Temple and Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, former Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and former Stanford wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. Stinespring will move from offensive coordinator to Virginia Tech’s recruiting coordinator, as he will continue to coach the tight ends.

Not since 2006, when four assistants were hired, has Beamer made such sweeping changes to his staff. Were these the right moves? Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo reportedly turned down Beamer's offer to be the Hokies' next offensive coordinator. He wasn't the only one. Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton also interviewed for the job and reportedly turned it down.

Was Loeffler the best option? Or was he the best available option?

Most Virginia Tech fans would likely agree these changes were long overdue. But will they make the Hokies better in 2013?

Let's put it to a vote.

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January, 18, 2013
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Hope you guys get to enjoy a nice, long weekend.

Virginia Tech staff still in flux

January, 8, 2013
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There has been plenty of speculation about possible staff changes at Virginia Tech, but as of right now, the only thing I can confirm through a source is that wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman has been offered a job at Purdue, and offensive line coach Curt Newsome has been offered a job at JMU, but neither one of those assistants has been fired from Virginia Tech. Whether or not those coaches are retained remains to be seen, but during last season, my guess was that if any coaches were relieved of their duties, Sherman and Newsome would be at the top of the list.

There has also been a report that Frank Beamer was scheduled to meet Monday with Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Nashville, Tenn., according to a CBSSports.com. There has been nothing official to report on that end. My prediction is that Mike O'Cain and Bryan Stinespring are demoted, not fired.

There are still plenty of decisions to be made in Blacksburg. Stay tuned.

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March, 1, 2012
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It's a perfect day for practice ...

Beamers 'just like any other coaches'

December, 30, 2011
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Shane Beamer, Frank BeamerUS PresswireShane, left, and Frank Beamer have been able to maintain a professional relationship while coaching together this season.
Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer lives about 10 to 15 minutes away from his parents in Blacksburg, Va. At the beginning of the season -- before it began to cut into bedtime for his kids -- Beamer and his family would spend Thursday nights after practice at coach Frank Beamer’s house eating takeout together for dinner because it was the one day of the week the staff didn’t work late.

It was also just about the only hint that Shane and Frank Beamer were a father-son coaching duo this year.

“If you came to practice every day, you’d never be able to tell they were father and son,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “They take it as their job. They act just like any other coaches. You’d never be able to tell, and I think that’s good for our team that there’s nobody higher than the law.”

Heading into his first season on his father’s staff as associate head coach and running backs coach, Shane Beamer intended to make sure that was the perception, and apparently, he succeeded. He also proved to be an important addition to the staff’s recruiting efforts, and the running game has fared well under his watch. Now, the Beamers will have an opportunity to coach in the Allstate Sugar Bowl together when the Hokies face Michigan next week. While Virginia Tech wasn’t able to deliver Beamer any titles in his 25th season, it was a successful transition for a rookie coach with a big name to live up to.

“When your last name is Beamer, whether you’re a high school football player here in Blacksburg or playing in college at Virginia Tech or a coach at Mississippi State, I think people sometimes look at you a little bit differently,” Shane said. “Maybe there’s the perception you’re in the position you’re in because of your last name. I’ve dealt with that all my life. I try and go out of my way to prove in any situation I do belong. I wouldn’t want anybody to ever say I’m in this position because of who my dad is or anything like that.”

Most of the coaches on staff know the Beamers too well to make that mistake. Shane has known quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain since he was born and defensive coordinator Bud Foster since he was 2 years old. He’s known defensive line coach Charley Wiles since he was 5. In a way, the staff is just as much family to him as the head coach.

Not that he ever saw his dad much this season.

Shane spent most of his workdays during the regular season in the offensive meeting room. The time spent with his father was limited to about 30 minutes a day in a staff meeting, maybe another 20 minutes in special-teams meetings and on the practice field. He spent more time with offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring than he did his father.

“Coming into it, I was worried about how I might be accepted, and I didn’t want anybody on our staff to feel that they couldn’t be themselves around me because of who’s son I was, and I don’t think they do,” Beamer said. “When I was a player he treated me like any other player, and as a coach, he treats me like any other coach. I have a job to do, I try and work extremely hard at my job to prove I belong, and to me it hasn’t been awkward at all.”

It has, however, been special.

“The things that stand out are being able to share in the big wins, beating Virginia up there like we did and an exciting win over Miami, or the opening ballgame when they had a presentation for him, with it being his 25th year, being out there with him and share in that,” Shane said. “And then moments off the field, having dinner with my mom and my dad on a Thursday night after practice, just things like that make it special.”

So did winning 11 games and becoming the first ACC team in league history to receive an at-large BCS bowl bid. Shane was a part of that, as Virginia Tech’s running game is No. 30 in the country entering the Sugar Bowl, and running back David Wilson is No. 6 in the country in rushing yards per game.

“At this level, it’s not just having your son on the staff; it’s having good coaches on your staff, and I think Shane is a good coach,” Frank Beamer said. “He works hard at recruiting and is very good at that. I’ve really been pleased at having Shane back here and working together and having that kind of relationship. And I can tell you, my wife, Cheryl, is particularly happy to have two granddaughters running around and getting to see them every day. Then I think Emily, Shane’s wife, is happy to have a baby sitter in Cheryl. So I think everybody wins in this deal.”

And there’s no question the Beamers love to win. Like father, like son.
There is one key statistic that helps explain Virginia Tech’s recent surge:

Since Virginia Tech lost to Clemson 23-3 on Oct. 1, quarterback Logan Thomas has accounted for 23 touchdowns and thrown just two interceptions.

It’s no coincidence that the Hokies haven’t lost in that stretch.

Logan Thomas
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)Since the ugly October loss to Clemson, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has thrown just two interceptions while racking up 23 touchdowns.
While the entire team has improved since that game, Virginia Tech’s ascension to No. 5 in the latest BCS standings has mirrored the maturation of Thomas. It’s not that Thomas was bad – the Hokies have only lost one game all season – but he made the mistakes early expected of a first-year starter, and he has grown into one of the best quarterbacks in the conference heading into Saturday’s Dr Pepper ACC championship game against Clemson. The Hokies have been a different and better team since the last time they faced Clemson, and it all starts with Thomas.

“I've seen a lot of progress,” Virginia Tech receiver Danny Coale said. “You have a guy who has all the tools in the world and all the athletic ability along with the right mental approach to the game. So as you would expect, he has a little bit more comfort. He gains a little bit more experience each and every time, and you see him become more comfortable as the games go on. And I think he's just matured quickly into a very good quarterback.”

There was plenty of blame to go around in Virginia Tech’s home loss to Clemson, but Thomas took the brunt of the criticism from many outside the program. He completed 15 of 27 passes that day for 125 yards and was sacked four times. He also threw an interception and the Hokies were held without a touchdown in Lane Stadium for the first time since 1995. It was the second-fewest points in a home game since Frank Beamer took over the program in 1987.

Following that loss, Thomas had a little heart-to-heart with quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain.

“Coach O'Cain just called me into his office afterwards or on Monday after the game was just like, ‘Hey, keep your head up. You're still our quarterback. We have no doubts in you. You're going to be a great one.’

“And it was definitely good to hear that from my coach. But I think it was better that all the guys on the team had my back as well. And nobody was down on me. Everybody was picking me up, saying: Hey, we got it. We just gotta take it one game at a time. And the next week I came out and probably had one of the best games I've had or will have. So I think it was just a confidence boost just knowing that everybody had my back.”

The following week, Thomas had a jaw-dropping performance in a thrilling 38-35 victory over Miami. He ran 19 yards for the game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-1 with 56 seconds to play, and completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards, three touchdown passes and two rushing — more touchdowns than he had incompletions. His only two blemishes were a short pass that David Wilson dropped, and a ball that he threw away after picking up a botched snap.

Clemson is wary of Thomas’ improvement.

“He was a young player coming to our first game,” said Clemson safety Rashard Hall. “Looks like he's just been improving over games as you would expect players to do, especially at the quarterback position. He played a good game against us and watching him throughout the season and on film last night, he seems to be doing a great job as their quarterback.”

Beamer has no doubts.

“He's a guy that's very smart,” Beamer said. “He's always in control on the football field, and I think as he's gained experience, he knows where he wants to go with the ball. He's more accurate … and it all just comes with experience.”

The biggest experience of his rookie season, though, has yet to come.

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October, 27, 2011
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Who you got? Miami or Virginia?

Halftime: Virginia Tech 21, Wake Forest 10

October, 15, 2011
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The 10-0 Wake Forest lead didn't last long.

Virginia Tech scored three straight touchdowns in the second quarter, and quarterback Logan Thomas had a hand in all of them, rushing for two and passing for another. The Hokies are the comeback kings, not only from game to game and half to half, but tonight from quarter to quarter.

Having spoken with Thomas and quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain earlier this week, both said the offense gained a lot of confidence from last week's win over Miami. It's that kind of confidence that can allow Virginia Tech to fall into a hole knowing it's good enough to pull itself out. Thomas is clearly building upon last week's performance, though, that will be tough to duplicate. Ever. Wake Forest isn't going to win this game if it keeps striking out on third-down conversions (0-for-8). It hasn't been a flawless first half for either team, but the Hokies have the momentum now.
Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain kept starter Logan Thomas for a few extra minutes after one of their position group meetings last week. O’Cain talked with the quarterback about the criticism Thomas had been facing following the Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson.

Thomas conceded that he had heard some of the negativity, but said it had been harder on his mom than it was on him.

“He was getting a lot of grief, there were a lot of naysayers out there, doubting whether he should be playing quarterback,” O’Cain said. “I have no idea where that comes from or what starts that. For two weeks in a row he had completed 65 percent of his passes and now all of a sudden -- and he completed 55 against Clemson, that’s no slouch. But that’s life as a quarterback. He and I talked about that.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Bob Donnan/US PresswireLogan Thomas had the best game of his collegiate career Saturday when the Hokies eked out a win over the Hurricanes.
“I said just understand that No. 1, you have tremendous confidence in yourself and we have tremendous confidence in you. Go out and play. I think he felt the same way after the Clemson game. I don’t think he felt like he played his best, but he didn’t understand where all of the negativity was coming from. I said that’s just part of it. I don’t know where it’s coming from, either.”

It’s gone as quickly as it came.

Thomas had a stunning performance last week in the Hokies’ 38-35 win over Miami, throwing more touchdown passes (three) than incompletions (two). One of those incompletions was a dropped pass, the other a throw-away. His 92 percent completion rate was the highest of any quarterback under coach Frank Beamer in 301 games. Oh, and he also rushed for a career-high two scores, including the game-winner.

“It was the best performance I’ve seen,” O’Cain said.

The task now is to build upon it. According to Thomas and those within the program, there was no major revelation, no discovery during the week of practice leading up to the Miami game that resulted in the historic performance. It was simply a matter of Thomas making good decisions and getting help from his receivers and good protection from the offensive line. It was a complete offensive performance the Hokies are hoping will carry over to Saturday’s game at Wake Forest. O’Cain, Beamer and Thomas – they all have seen gradual progress each week, and none of them were ever in panic mode.

That was for the fans.

“My parents and my grandparents raised me to let everything roll off my back,” Thomas said. “That’s the way I let things go. I just looked forward to the next day, next week, and I think that really helped me get through and get past all of the doubt.”

Beamer said Thomas was better against Miami with his decisions of where to go with the ball. Against Clemson, Thomas completed 15 of 27 passes for 125 yards and an interception. He was also sacked four times in that game.

“I think he tried to drop a couple balls off instead of trying to get it down the field, and that's a good play, it's a completion and you're dumping it off to some dangerous guys,” Beamer said of the Miami game. “I think where to go with the ball; I think he's better this week. When you know where to go with it, and get there on time your accuracy is better so I think that played into it. He'll learn every week I promise you; he's just a guy that'll keep improving.”

The improvement was harder to see from the outside.

“I’ve always had the confidence I can play like that every week,” Thomas said. “I did get some doubt after the Clemson game, but hopefully it was erased this past weekend.”

O’Cain said Thomas’ performance was something the entire offense can build on, not just their quarterback.

“From an offensive standpoint, you have a tendency sometimes for some frustration to set in,” O’Cain said. “We needed a game like that to get that out, to say 'yes we can do it' and put all of the negative stuff out of your brain and go out and play.”

Thomas agreed.

“I think it’s going to help us in our confidence department tremendously,” Thomas said. “And it was also, when things got tight, we didn’t just fall apart, we stepped it up to another level and were able to go and outperform and get the win.”

Don’t worry, Hokies, Thomas is not the “I-told-you-so” type.

“I’m just thankful I had the game I did,” he said.

So are Virginia Tech fans. All of them.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 5

October, 2, 2011
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Each weekend reveals more. Virginia Tech might not have wanted to open this week's lesson book. Here’s a look at what we learned in the ACC in Week 5:

1. Virginia Tech’s offense has more problems than the staff seems to want to publicly admit. Both coach Frank Beamer and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain downplayed the Hokies’ inept performance on offense following their 23-3 loss to Clemson. They spoke of missed opportunities and turnovers, but in the end seemed to think it’s nothing that can’t be fixed in time for the Miami game or anything serious enough to keep Virginia Tech from contending for the Coastal Division title. The eyeball test, though, disagrees. The Hokies are in a bind in third-and-long situations, and defenses aren’t going to respect the passing game until that changes. There were also signs of problems up front, as Logan Thomas was sacked four times and Clemson’s defensive line had the upper hand. There were signs of this against East Carolina, but Saturday's game proved only more difficult against better competition.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
AP Photo/Steve HelberTajh Boyd and Clemson made a statement with their road win on Saturday.
2. Clemson is as good on the road against ranked opponents as it is at home. The Tigers answered a big question as doubt continued to follow them to Blacksburg. After starting off 4-0 at home, Clemson proved it can also beat ranked competition on the road. Lane Stadium is arguably the toughest venue in the ACC, especially at night, and Clemson left no doubt it was the better team. Quarterback Tajh Boyd stayed poised, made good decisions, and managed the offense well.

3. Georgia Tech stands alone in the Coastal Division. With its win over NC State, Georgia Tech is 2-0 in the ACC and in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division. The Jackets are off to their first 5-0 start since 1990, and their first 2-0 start in conference play under coach Paul Johnson. Virginia Tech’s loss to Clemson has opened the door for Georgia Tech to reassert itself as the best team in the division.

4. Wake Forest has quietly become one of the ACC’s better teams. There are only two teams in the ACC’s Atlantic Division with 2-0 records: Clemson and Wake Forest. Granted, the Deacs’ toughest competition has yet to come, and Wake Forest’s running game has yet to hit its stride, but quarterback Tanner Price has put his team in position for a dark horse run at the division title. At the very least, Wake’s chances of reaching the postseason look much better.

5. The ACC is top-heavy right now. Virginia has nothing to brag about in its overtime win against Idaho. Maryland had an uninspiring performance at home against Towson. For about 22 minutes, Miami’s game against Bethune-Cookman was much closer than the final score indicated. Yes, the league was able to rebound from last week’s poor performances against nonconference opponents, but it was hardly in convincing fashion. Clemson and Georgia Tech have distanced themselves as the top teams in the league.

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September, 30, 2011
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See ya, September ...
After two games and a 2-0 start, it's time to check in with Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain about how his first-year starter, Logan Thomas, has fared so far. Here are the highlights of my interview with him yesterday:

How would you assess his play through the first two games?

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/Karl DeBlakerVirginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain is pleased with what he's seen from Logan Thomas so far this season.
Mike O'Cain: I've been very pleased. I think he's done exactly what we've asked him to do. He's done a tremendous job of managing the game, getting us in and out of plays, doing all of the little things you have to do, reading signals, and getting the play called properly, getting us to the line of scrimmage in time. He's done a wonderful job of that. That's the way it starts. Overall, he's thrown the ball well. I know his stats right now don't look particularly good, but he's had seven dropped balls in two games and another six that he's had to throw away because of either pressure or not having anybody open, or whatever reason. If you put those 13 throws as potential completions, it looks good. He's not forcing the ball, he's not making the critical mistake. Even though he had an interception on the goal line on Saturday, it wasn't a stupid error as I would call it, a crazy error, it was just one of those things that he threw the ball outside on a fade and the safety made a great play on the ball. Logan didn't get it quite outside far enough, but he was going where he should have gone with it. Does he have to get better? Yeah, and we have to get better offensively in all phases. But I'm pleased with where he is so far. We've been able to bring him along, not ask him to have to win the ball game. He ran the ball very well on Saturday, we put the ball in his hands nine or 10 times. I think he had 11 carries, but two or so may have been runs in the passing game. He had to make a decision in reading it, either he would keep it or give it to the back or whatever. He had five or six opportunities to do that. He's done well and played well.

You guys had committed to the run against ECU, ran it 45 or 50 times. Did that have anything to do with what Logan wasn't doing?

Mike O'Cain: Absolutely not. There were a couple of things in our thought process. Early in the game we threw the ball a fair number of times and somebody said, 'You know, David Wilson has only touched the ball four times.' We were probably midway through the second quarter, and that's not good. So that was part of it. At the same time, we were able to run the football. We were able to take the football down the field and run the ball, which, in turn, their offense was very explosive. We wanted to keep the ball away from them. We were able to run the ball. We were getting 5 yards on first down, 6 yards on first down. It seemed to be the right thing to do. Will we be able to do that from here on out? I probably don't think so. But we were able to Saturday. It worked, and we had the ball for about 38 minutes. That's 38 minutes they don't have it.

Ideally, how much do you want Logan to be running with it?

Mike O'Cain: We don't really put a number on it. What we have to do to win the game. The opportunity presented itself Saturday where we felt like there were several times he had an opportunity to help us get 5 yards, 6 yards, 7 yards, and all of those weren't necessary designed for him to carry it. It was an option for him to carry the ball. It just happened to be the way he played, he ended up carrying the ball. But probably 11 times is too many, to be honest. At the same time, going back to Tyrod [Taylor] a little bit, Tyrod we didn't necessarily design for him to carry the ball very many times a game, because he's going to get six, seven, eight carries a game, just pulling the ball down in the passing game. Logan's a little bit different. He's probably going to stay in the pocket a little bit more, probably won't get quite as many runs in the passing game as Tyrod did for a difference in styles. So we may create a few more ways for him to carry the ball and play his part in the running game.
Once again, the expectation is for Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Division.

Once again, the Hokies have the potential to work their way into the national title conversation.

But buried amid the preseason prognostications is the fact that quarterback Logan Thomas has yet to start a game and has thrown just 26 passes in his collegiate career. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer enters his 25th season as head coach of his alma mater with a new, highly anticipated beginning at his quarterback position. How Thomas fares in his first season will go a long way in determining whether the Hokies can return to the ACC championship game and possibly contend for more, or if they'll make way for a new champion.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireLogan Thomas will get his first collegiate start Saturday against Appalachian State.
There have been times this summer when Thomas has looked spectacular -- like on the clutch 24-yard pass that came on a third-and-16 at Miami last year. But there have also been times when he has looked like he’s never started a game before, and missed open targets.

That’s what Virginia Tech fans should expect this fall -- a little bit of both.

Thomas is going to experience some growing pains, but those within the program are confident in his abilities both as a leader and as a player. In addition to a favorable nonconference schedule to start the season, one of the biggest assets Thomas has working in his favor is the experience around him – veteran offensive linemen, senior receivers, a senior tight end, and a dynamic running back in David Wilson.

With the talent around him, there shouldn’t be much pressure on Thomas to win the games alone.

Nor should Hokies’ fans expect him to.

The Tyrod Taylor era is over. Thomas and Taylor are different in stature and style, and that will be reflected in the Hokies’ offense. If it looks any different, it’s not because Mike O’Cain is calling the plays instead of Bryan Stinespring, it’s because Thomas is a 6-foot-6 quarterback instead of the six-foot Taylor. It’s because Thomas won’t be scrambling like Taylor did, but he’ll be able to make passes Taylor couldn’t.

It will only be a matter of time before the comparisons between them disappear.

Ready or not, Logan Thomas is now the face of Virginia Tech’s offense.

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