While running the ball is a priority, new OC Scot Loeffler’s biggest job in 2013 is with Logan Thomas
Scot Loeffler‘s first task at Virginia Tech began before he was officially hired. During his second interview, the Hokies’ eventual offensive coordinator met with Logan Thomas, a day before the quarterback had to make his NFL decision.
Loeffler thought the two hit it off and had a similar vision, a logical outcome given their circumstances. Thomas’ development took a step back in his junior year, his first major struggles as a starter. Loeffler suffered through a forgettable year in an intractable situation at Auburn, where his offense was one of the worst statistically in the NCAA.
“I think he’s a guy that’s hungry,” Loeffler said. “Anytime you have some setbacks, you’re hungry. And I think we both had … setbacks last year.”
Hokies head coach Frank Beamer made it clear Friday that how Virginia Tech runs its offense will be Loeffler’s call, and judging from Loeffler’s pro-style background that was honed at his alma mater at Michigan under Lloyd Carr, there doesn’t seem like there will be any disharmony.
“I mean, I grew up in a program almost identical to this,” said Loeffler, who said it is “fundamental” to have a strong running game, in lockstep with Beamer’s philosophy. “Every time I see coach Beamer, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is like talking to Lloyd.’”
If Carr’s recommendation wasn’t enough to make Beamer comfortable with the hire, new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes‘ description of the 38-year-old Loeffler as a tough-minded coordinator who likes to run the ball certainly did the trick.
“He’s probably in a former life been an offensive lineman,” Grimes said. “Because he has a lot more the temperament and some of the personal habits of an offensive lineman. But he coaches like an offensive line coach does. And what I mean by that is he’s very demanding, he gets after the guys. … I believe wholeheartedly in his ability as a coach, as a coordinator. And I’ve been around some great ones, but this guy has more football knowledge than anybody I’ve ever been around and is a great motivator too.”
Despite all the talk about the running game, Loeffler’s chief task in 2013 will still be getting Thomas back on track to be an All-ACC caliber player. His brief evaluation of the quarterback on tape gives him plenty of reasons to think Thomas will be the next eventual NFL quarterback on his résumé, which includes Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, Chad Henne, John Navarre and Tim Tebow.
“Some of the things that he does that are really, really difficult, he does them easy,” Loeffler said. “And you can’t coach that. I don’t care. There are some things that he does that are really, really hard. I watched him chin-over-toe escape to his left and make this freaky throw that not too many guys could do. So some things like that that are easy, I think we can make them a little easier for him, to be more productive.”
Loeffler, like everyone who encounters Thomas, sees the strength and size. But he also came away impressed by the quarterback’s team-first mentality, which he thinks was evident in Thomas’ decision to return to Virginia Tech for his senior season.
In conversations with Loeffler on Friday, the coach stresses toughness and technique from his quarterbacks.
“I just believe in them,” he said. “It’s the thing that gets you out of trouble when things are going bad. The great ones, they’re all fundamentally sound. …
“Our whole objective with Logan is to get him fundamentally as best as we can and make him good at the things he can control,” he said later. “And the things you can’t, you can’t. Most of the time, whenever you’re controlling what you can control, good things happen to you.”
Loeffler has found that with quarterbacks he’s had in the past. He was a senior at Michigan in 1996, his career finished because of a rotator cuff surgery, when Brady arrived in Ann Arbor. As Loeffler transitioned to a student assistant and later graduate assistant working with quarterbacks, his friendship and working relationship with Brady blossomed. (Brady, in fact, was one of the groomsmen in his wedding.)
“He is the best,” said Loeffler, who pegged Brady for big things before he found NFL stardom. “He’s the most fierce competitor, tough. I love him.”
When Loeffler took the quarterback job at Florida in 2009, he met up with Tebow, whose quarterbacking style was non-traditional but mental makeup was off the charts.
“He has every intangible that you would ever want,” Loeffler said. “No one’s perfect. Someone’s flawed. Most of the time, all your intangibles, your toughness, your mental makeup, how you approach things, your leadership, they always override your fundamental problems that you can’t correct. … I’m not betting against that guy, ever.”
Loeffler’s career hasn’t all been smooth, however. His one-year stop at Auburn, only the second of his career as a coordinator, was a disaster. The Tigers relied on a pair of young quarterbacks — true sophomore Kiehl Frazier and true freshman Jonathan Wallace — and saw little to no improvement in the passing game. Auburn ranked near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision in almost every offensive category. The Tigers finished 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC, leading to the dismissal of head coach Gene Chizik and his entire staff.
Loeffler didn’t get into the specifics of what went wrong at Auburn out of respect for the people he worked with, although he’s not fearful that he will be forever judged by his year there.
“You’ve got to learn real quick that in this business, there’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs.,” he said. “There’s going to be times when you play really well, there’s going to be times when you don’t. There’s going to be times when you coach really well and there’s going to be times that you don’t. Obviously, one little setback is not going to define who I am or what I believe in. I’m good.”
He says he’s tired of the itinerant lifestyle. Other than a six-year stint as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach from 2002-07, Loeffler has bounced around the profession. He spent a year with the Detroit Lions, two with Florida, one with Temple and one with Auburn before ending up at Virginia Tech.
“I really want to be at a place where I can go recruit a guy, develop him and watch him graduate, go to the NFL, win and go get another one,” Loeffler said. “But the bouncing? I’m ready to sit for a while to say the least. I’m ready to go back and do what I did when I was in Ann Arbor.”
Although he’s eager to develop a player from scratch, he’ll inherit Thomas, someone who he thinks fits the bill on his checklist of quarterback wants – smart, tough, loves the game and is a leader with talent.
“The wonderful thing we have going with Logan is that there are some things that he does really good, and the things that he needs to work on, you can fix quickly,” Loeffler said. “It’s not like we’re recreating a motion or something of that nature. …
“The wonderful thing about the quarterback position is that you’ve never arrived. The Joe Montanas, the Bradys of the world, the Brett Favres, they’re always trying to get better. We’re trying to chase perfection. You’re never going to get there. So you’re always working at something to improve your game.”