Quarterback Logan Thomas announced his return to Virginia Tech on Tuesday, clearing the decks for the Hokies’ more enduring offseason development: the makeover of coach Frank Beamer’s offensive staff.
The two stories are inexorably linked.
Thomas almost certainly would have bypassed his final college season and headed to the NFL were he not comfortable with the impending changes in coaches and strategy. Understanding that, Beamer involved Thomas in the search for a new offensive coordinator.
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Not to suggest that Thomas had veto power over candidates. But rest assured he spoke with candidates, including the probable choice, former Auburn, Temple, Florida and Michigan assistant Scot Loeffler.
With Thomas back for his senior season, fans are pining louder for official word on staff. But given state red tape, that may take time.
Still, all signs indicate that Loeffler will replace Bryan Stinespring as coordinator, with Stinespring, who served that role for 11 years, remaining as a position coach and perhaps recruiting coordinator. Moreover, former Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes appears ticketed for the same gig at Tech, with Stanford offensive assistant Aaron Moorehead becoming the Hokies’ receivers coach.
Thomas’ decision seemed clear to those who’ve watched him the past two seasons as Tech’s starter. Yes, blessed with a 6-foot-6 frame and big-league arm, he has NFL potential. And yes, in a lean draft year for quarterbacks, he might have been drafted within the first three rounds.
But Thomas, a second-team All-ACC selection in 2011, declined in 2012. Most jarring was his completion percentage, which dropped from 59.8 to 51.3. Meanwhile, he threw 16 interceptions in 429 attempts, compared to 10 in 417 as a sophomore.
The regression wasn’t totally on him. The Hokies’ line, running backs and receivers weren’t as talented as in 2011, and the offensive coaches never developed a coherent strategy.
Still, Thomas shoulders some responsibility. His throwing was erratic, often wild high, and some of his misreads led to critical interceptions.
Now Thomas wasn’t a bust by any stretch. He led a fourth-quarter comeback against Georgia Tech that forced an overtime in which the Hokies prevailed. He directed a 93-yard touchdown drive in the waning minutes against Cincinnati that produced a short-lived lead.
Then there was Thomas’ brute strength. Absent dependable tailbacks and blocking, he often bulldozed his way for important yards and third-down conversions.
Though far from NFL-ready, Thomas wouldn’t have been wrong to declare. He has his degree in human development and might have preferred NFL practices and game-day observation to another college season, one in which he’ll be learning a new offense.
But that was not the case. In announcing his decision on ESPNU, Thomas said the Hokies’ 7-6 record this past season, their worst in 20 years, “kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. I want to come back and have a better season this year.”
In a press release, Thomas said: “I’m deciding to come back to Tech to better myself and this team for the future. I’m looking forward to what this upcoming season holds. The NFL has always been a goal of mine, but the NFL will always be there while college is only a five-year experience that you can’t get back.”
If Loeffler is Beamer’s eventual choice, Thomas will get a heavy dose of pro-style offense. That was the word Tuesday from Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who played for Loeffler during Loeffler’s tenure as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach from 2002-07.
“Really owe a lot to him, how he developed me as a quarterback, as a young man,” Henne said. “He’s a pro-style offensive guy who prepared me for the (NFL). Just think he’s very innovative, very intelligent.”
Michigan went 20-6 during Henne’s final two seasons, 2006 and ’07, and he said Loeffler called the Wolverines’ pass plays.
“I think he has a full handle on when to mix it up, how to call the right plays,” Henne added. “He’s very intelligent in what he does, reading defenses, learning tendencies. Just puts you in the right place at the right time.”
Music to Logan Thomas’ ears, I suspect.David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP