The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 1: Logan Thomas, junior quarterback
There was no doubt who was going to be No. 1 on this list. Thomas is Virginia Tech’s best player and he plays the most important position on the field. Choosing someone else would have been over-thinking the issue.
Thomas isn’t just integral to the Hokies’ success because of the numbers he puts up, although they were pretty fantastic last year. Anyone who accounts for 30 touchdowns and breaks the school’s single-season yardage mark in his first year as a starter is a pretty special talent.
But looking at what the offense lost — four senior linemen, the two all-time leading receivers in program history and the reigning ACC Player of the Year at running back — it becomes apparent that Thomas will have to advance his game significantly for Virginia Tech to come anywhere close to last year’s offensive production.
And that’s possible. He spent the offseason working with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who knows talent when he sees it. He’s coached Ben Rothelisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck before and put Thomas in their company in terms of talent (at least at the college stage of their careers).
But his value won’t just be those skills. He has to be the leader, the one who pulls the team together when things aren’t going great, when drives are stalling and momentum is slipping away. That’s the real mark of a good quarterback — one who can get the most out of his teammates and guide them through the inevitable rough patches.
You could see glimpses of that leadership last year. He pretty much won the Miami game by himself. It was his sheer will of not going down for a sack against Georgia Tech that frustrated a defender into taking a swing at his facemask, earning a personal foul penalty and moving the chains at a critical part of the game. He’d follow it up with a 10-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown.
And even in the Sugar Bowl loss, Thomas made big plays at crucial moments, finding ways to get first downs late in the game to help force overtime. (The Clemson games remain the two black marks on his resume, although that could be said of the whole team.)
Essentially, Virginia Tech’s offense will go as far as Thomas takes it. That’s what the elite quarterbacks do. Newton did it at Auburn. Robert Griffin III did it at Baylor. Luck did it at Stanford. All three played on teams that overachieved, given the talent level on the rest of the roster. A top-notch quarterback can have that effect.
The Hokies always have a strong defense. The potential is there for the special teams to pull out of its recent lull. The offense will be the unit to watch, and Thomas holds the key.
Coming Sunday: The ACC Kickoff begins.
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
- No. 16: Cody Journell, junior kicker
- No. 15: Brent Benedict and David Wang, offensive guards
- No. 14: Dyrell Roberts, senior wide receiver
- No. 13: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 12: Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach
- No. 11: Key reserves
- No. 10: Frank Beamer, head coach
- No. 9: Bruce Taylor and Tariq Edwards, inside linebackers
- No. 8: Marcus Davis, wide receiver
- No. 7: Beamerball
- No. 6: Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, junior cornerbacks
- No. 5: Michael Holmes, redshirt freshman running back
- No. 4: Bryan Stinespring and Mike O’Cain, offensive coordinator/play-caller
- No. 3: James Gayle, junior defensive end
- No. 2: Vinston Painter, senior right tackle