BLACKSBURG - Logan Thomas came to Virginia Tech last season as the nation’s top-rated tight end recruit, according to Rivals.com.
This was largely due to Thomas’ physique—now 6-6 and 242 pounds. He played quarterback as a junior and senior, but played wide receiver as a sophomore.
Thomas almost immediately started playing quarterback when he arrived in Blacksburg last summer. The Hokies needed a backup, and Thomas competed for the job with Joseph “Ju-Ju” Clayton (Hermitage High)—as Thomas is doing again this August, now as a redshirt freshman.
But Tech’s coaches are also beginning to experiment with him in another role—tight end. This comes as little surprise, especially to Thomas.
First, the Hokies sometimes use sets with two tight ends, and they have no proven backup behind senior Andre Smith. Entering August, the reserve tight ends were redshirt freshman Eric Martin, senior Prince Parker and sophomore Randall Dunn. Parker and Dunn, former receivers, are fairly new to the position. Both moved there last August.
Second, the coaches had previously talked to Thomas about getting work at a position other than quarterback. Early in spring practices, they briefly discussed giving him a package of plays, though quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said last week there was “nothing final” with that.
Still, he realizes Thomas’ talents might come in handy.
“You don’t want a guy like that standing over there on the sideline,” O’Cain said. “At the same time, you’ve got to be very careful that you don’t ask him to do too much. He’s got to get his reps at quarterback.”
Thomas practicing at tight end during August is one thing. But if he wins the backup quarterback job, that might complicate matters. O’Cain has said he wants to make a decision on his No. 2 sometime between Saturday’s first scrimmage and the second one, Aug. 21.
As the backup, Thomas would have to spend much of his practice time getting enough reps to be ready in case something happened to senior Tyrod Taylor. Moreover, by putting him in the game, the coaches would run the risk of him getting hurt.
You could say that about any player, of course, but Thomas’ potential value as a safety net at quarterback—and perhaps Tech’s quarterback of the future—is obvious. Then again, Tech’s season would likely be in serious trouble if Taylor is sidelined for a significant amount of time, regardless of who his understudy is.
But anyway, back to the main point. O’Cain said any package the coaches design for Thomas would be “minimal from a mental standpoint and something that he could do physically where he’s not having to knock people off the ball.”
Thomas said last week he’d be OK with running a package of plays. (Players and coaches were available for media interviews Monday and Tuesday this week, but aren’t available again again until after Saturday’s scrimmage.)
“I think I’ll be fine with it,” Thomas said. “It just means that I’d have to put more time and dedication into football. Last year, I know that was a big downfall for me. I didn’t study the game as much as I need to. This year, I’ve started to study a lot more. When I watch [video] with coach O’Cain, I pay attention more and I learn more. So it makes it a lot easier on me when I’m out here throwing the ball around. [Last season], I was completely lost. Just because I didn’t know the stuff. It was not like I would just come in in my free time and look at it. Since then I have been.”
The fact is, the Hokies return enough talent to make the coaches more comfortable with the offense than they were in previous seasons. This allows coordinator Bryan Stinespring to tinker more in August with things like Thomas playing tight end—something he wasn’t able to do in previous seasons.
“I think it gets back to because of where we are, we’re able to build on things faster,” Stinespring said. “And we’re able to pick up things a little faster. So we can move a little faster. Which gives us an opportunity to at least explore some of these things and not just throw ‘em out there, or allow to us to have already started that process.”
On the other hand, Stinespring knows there’s such a thing as being too fancy. When head coach Frank Beamer met with his offensive staff before the season, he wrote several agendas on a white board. The fourth one, Stinespring said, involved finding a good balance on offense, without trying to do too much.
“If you’re not performing to the level that you know that you can because you’re doing too much,” Stinespring said, “then you haven’t done a very good job of balancing it in terms of how you’re practicing it, how you’re repping it, so that it’s a nice, easy flow, so that you keep your offense in a rhythm, you keep your team in a rhythm, instead of trying to do a lot of things, just because you think you can.”