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Friday, August 23, 2013
What does Thomas need to return to form?

By Jungkyu Lee

Andrew Weber/USA Today SportsLogan Thomas will look to reclaim the success he had in all facets in 2011.
As a first-year sophomore starter in 2011, Logan Thomas led Virginia Tech to an 11-3 season and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Optimism ran high in Blacksburg as he broke the single-season school record for total offense previously held by Tyrod Taylor.

But that promising start faded in Thomas’ junior season. In 2012, his completion percentage plummeted from 60 percent to 51 percent, and he threw six more interceptions than in 2011. As a result, Virginia Tech finished with a 7-6 record, its worst in 20 years.

Looking at ESPN’s new Total QBR metric for college football, which uses all of a quarterback’s plays (passing, rushing, fumbles, sacks and penalties) and accounts for the context of the game situation while adjusting for the quality of defenses faced, Thomas’ decline was significant.

He had a Total QBR of 43.0 last season, which ranked ninth in the conference and 93rd in the nation, after having a Total QBR of 68.6 (26th in FBS) in 2011.

Thomas will be vital to the Hokies fortunes this season. Let's look back and ahead at key numbers for him.

What went wrong?
After the 2011 season, Virginia Tech lost its top two receivers - Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. The Hokies' third-leading receiver that year, D.J. Coles, played only 13 snaps in 2012 before missing the rest of the season due to a knee injury. In addition, the Hokies lost running back David Wilson, who was the New York Giants first-round draft pick.

As a result of those departures, Virginia Tech’s entire offense took a step back. With 186.9 rushing yards per game, the Hokies’ rushing offense ranked 28th in FBS in 2011. In 2012, their rushing numbers dropped to 79th in FBS, rendering Thomas’ play-action passes less effective.

Last season, Thomas was the Hokies’ leading rusher. With the absence of a dominant running back, opposing defenses sent five or more pass rushers on almost 28 percent of his dropbacks. When facing the blitz, he completed 45 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and six interceptions. In comparison, he threw 10 touchdown passes in such situations in 2011.

What to watch for in 2013
Thomas needs to improve his passes from inside the pocket. Excluding screen passes, Thomas completed 46 percent of his passes from inside the pocket last season with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. By comparison, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (also in his second-year starting in the ACC) completed nearly 64 percent of such passes with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Virginia Tech’s top three wide receivers in 2012 graduated, so they will look to the return of Coles and the emergence of speedy Demitri Knowles to ease that transition. The Hokies will also depend on redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds at running back.

After two drastically different seasons, this will be Thomas’ opportunity to prove that he has not plateaued. If he can bring back his success from two seasons ago, he will be in the conversation as one of the nation’s best quarterbacks.

That test begins on August 31 in Atlanta when the Hokies take on the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the season opener.