- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The naysayers may roll their eyes, but it is important to remember that Thomas enters his senior season as the established leader of the Virginia Tech offense, a veteran player with enough self-awareness to realize that his performance in 2012 was simply not good enough. Not for himself, and not for the Hokies.
His production was down, his completion percentage was ugly (51 percent) and his interception total (16) was too high. None of this can be argued. But somewhere in there, Thomas is still the player who had a breakthrough 2011 season, who led Virginia Tech to an at-large BCS berth, who has enough measurables to have him rated No. 1 on Mel Kiper's list of junior quarterback prospects.
Does he look like a linebacker playing quarterback at times? Yes. Are some of his throws ugly at times? Yes. Did he leave himself open for criticism with his performance in 2012? Yes.
But we cannot look at his 2012 season in a vacuum. The offensive line struggled. The running backs struggled. The receivers struggled. Thomas was not alone. Any good offense works in concert. And Virginia Tech looked about as good as a ragtag elementary school performance only a parent could love.
As the quarterback, Thomas gets the bulk of the credit when all works well and the bulk of the heat when all falls apart. He has seen both sides. But help appears to be on the way in the form of a new offensive coordinator.
As Heather Dinich reported, citing a source, the Hokies have hired former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to take over for Bryan Stinespring. While Loeffler has not exactly turned out inspiring offenses of late -- Auburn was one of the worst in college football in 2012 -- he is most known for his work with and development of quarterbacks.
Virginia Tech has not officially announced any staff changes yet. But given Loeffler's track record with signal-callers in his past, the hope and expectation is for Thomas to live up to his great potential and improve not on 2012 -- but on where he left off after the 2011 season, when he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw six fewer interceptions.
"I need to be a lot more consistent," Thomas said on ESPN's "College Football Live." "I had a lot of throws get away from me this year. I have to take care of the little things, and hopefully that will make me become a better quarterback."
No, Thomas needs to take care of the little things and the big things, and he must elevate the teammates he has around him -- something he failed to do in 2012. That is what makes an elite quarterback and an elite leader. That is what Virginia Tech believes it has in Thomas. That is why his coaches high-fived when they heard he would be returning.
The Hokies are far better off with Thomas despite his shortcomings. He has another chance to show why.