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2012 Virginia Tech Preview - Offense
Virginia Tech WR Marcus Davis
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokie Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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Virginia Tech Offense
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What You Need To Know: QB Logan Thomas was eased into the offense a year ago, his first as the starter. This season, he gets a crash course in being the face of the attack. The junior is an emerging superstar behind center, a 6-6, 262-pounder with a great fastball and uncommon mobility for a big man. However, he lost a ton of last year’s support staff, including the Hokies’ 1,700-yard rusher, top two receivers and four starting offensive linemen. Thomas complemented his teammates in 2011. In 2012, he’ll be hoisting them on his shoulders. It’s been a long time since Virginia Tech has been unable to produce a capable back, but it’s going to be challenged this fall. While redshirt freshman Michael Holmes has the edge, rookie Drew Harris will get a long look in the summer. Thomas should have no problem locating his targets this season; Marcus Davis, Dyrell Roberts and D.J. Coles are all at least 6-2. Davis caught 30 balls a year ago, and has the unique blend of measurables to turn the heads of NFL GMs. The line appears to have found the right combination, with four new starters getting promoted alongside holdover C Andrew Miller. Senior Nick Becton really asserted himself in the spring, which is good news since he’ll be in charge of protecting Thomas’ backside.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Logan Thomas
Passing: Logan Thomas
234-391, 3,013 yds, 19 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Logan Thomas
153 carries, 469 yds, 11 TDs
Receiving: D.J. Coles
36 catches, 480 yds, 3 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LT Nick Becton
Unsung star on the rise: Senior WR Marcus Davis
Best pro prospect: Thomas
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Thomas, 2) Davis, 3) Junior C Andrew Miller
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, physical receivers, protecting the ball, third-down conversions
Weakness of the offense: Running back, tight end, rebuilt O-line, red-zone conversions
There’s palpable excitement surrounding the second—and possibly final—year of the Logan Thomas era in Blacksburg. The junior is a walking enigma at quarterback. At 6-6, he has the length of a blindside protecting left tackle. At 262 pounds, he possesses the girth and the mass to be a pass rushing defensive end. When he stays in the pocket, he throws tight darts on both intermediate and deep routes. And to opposing defenders, when he pulls the ball down and takes off, he might as well be a locomotive, especially in short yardage situations. He is literally an immense talent who got exponentially better as his starting debut unfolded in 2011. After starting slowly, Thomas caught fire to finish 234-of-391 for 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
On the ground, the All-ACC Second Team pick cruised for 469 yards and 11 touchdowns on 153 carries. In terms of overall ability, think former NFL first-rounders Cam Newton of Carolina or Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay. If Thomas continues to improve his technique, namely his footwork, the sky is the limit for a budding superstar whose best days are clearly ahead of him.
Backing up Thomas will be 6-0, 212-pound sophomore Mark Leal , who continues to leave no doubts that he’s the successor at quarterback either in 2013 or 2014. He beat out more seasoned Hokies to win the No. 2 job in 2011, going 9-of-13 for 153 yards and two touchdowns in three appearances. Built more like Thomas’ successor, he’s naturally comfortable in the pocket, throws a nice ball and conducts himself like a much older player.
Watch Out For .... the buzz about Thomas’ future draft status to build as the season unfolds. The big righty has two years of eligibility remaining, but could be enticed to leave early if he projects high into the first round of next April’s draft. He’ll need to tune out the noise, which is bound to reach a crescendo just around the time that the Hokies attempt to seal up the ACC Coastal.
Strength: Multi-dimensions. The danger of Thomas for opposing defenses is that he can beat them in a number of different ways. Sure, he’s a pocket passer, with the big arm to stretch a secondary vertically and horizontally. However, give him too much respect as a hurler, and he’ll burn you by tucking the ball before busting through the defense like a nimble tight end.
Weakness: Accuracy. If Thomas is going to truly whet the appetites of NFL scouts and GMs, he needs to improve his accuracy. While the situation got markedly better as 2011 progressed, the junior still finished with a 59% completion percentage and 10 picks. For starters, it’s going to help if he stops throwing so many balls off his back feet.
Outlook: Last year was the calm. This season is the storm. After laying a very sound foundation in his debut, Thomas is poised to become one of the most dangerous playmakers from behind center in the country. Not only does he possess a unique mix of physical skills, but he has the intangibles coaches crave in a quarterback as well. With the running back situation unsettled, this is clearly Thomas’ offense to pilot in 2012.
For the second straight year, the Hokies are being forced to move on without an all-star who left school early for the NFL Draft. This time around, though, there’s no David Wilson waiting in the wings. For a program that rarely has issues in the backfield, the looming challenge promises to really test the staff. Next in line appears to be 5-11, 208-pound redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, who has impressed the staff in practice. Lightly recruited out of high school, he has impressed as a between-the-tackles runner, with the strong lower body needed to fight for more yards. He’s not going to be Wilson in terms of explosiveness, but looks capable of keeping the chains moving, while wearing defenses down with his relentless running style.
Coming out of spring, there was a two-man battle for the backup job between polar opposites, Martin Scales and J.C. Coleman. Scales is 5-11, 226-pound senior who has largely spent his career as a fullback and a special teams standout. He is a physical all-around athlete, but has yet to carry the ball in his Hokies career. Coleman, on the other hand, is a 5-7, 176-pound rookie fresh out of high school. The three-star recruit won’t have a feature role anytime soon, but could provide a spark on third downs with his quickness and good moves.
Never void of a solid, blue-collar fullback to pave the way for the tailbacks, Virginia Tech returns another good one in 5-11, 233-pound senior Joey Phillips. A workout warrior and returning starter, he possesses the upper body strength to blow open holes in the running game.
Watch Out For .... the next wave of contenders. The coaching staff isn’t done looking over possible successors to Wilson. Junior Tony Gregory is hoping to be at full strength after suffering an ACL tear in the Sugar Bowl, the second straight year he’s succumbed to the same injury. The Hokies also want to get a good look at Drew Harris , the four-star recruit from the 2012 class.
Strength: Young legs. The upshot of being so inexperienced at this position is that the Hokies are young, fresh and very eager to make their mark in Blacksburg. When Harris gets on board, Virginia Tech could have three talented freshmen competing for reps, promising news for the future at the position.
Weakness: No feature back. The future may be bright, but what about the present? As it stands now, the depth chart shakes out as an unheralded redshirt freshman, a converted fullback and a couple of rookies. Besides QB Logan Thomas, the leading returning rusher is walk-on Daniel Dyer who ran six times for 30 yards.
Outlook: The Hokies may have no choice but to use a committee in order to generate yards on the ground this fall. While Holmes is the probable starter, no one has stood out in such a way that he commands 20-25 carries a Saturday. Thomas will have an even larger role on the ground, carrying the ball on designed runs for the quarterback. The upcoming season looks like a transition year, with better fortunes ahead in 2013.
Despite losing both of last season’s 60-catch guys, Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, the program feels as if it’ll manage just fine in the passing game this fall. The Hokies are flush with talented veterans just itching for their shot at more prominent roles. Senior flanker Marcus Davis is a good example of an athlete with yet-to-be-tapped potential. The former quarterback started eight games a year ago, making 30 grabs for 510 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-4 and 228 pounds, he showcases uncommon athleticism, speed and leaping ability for a player of his size. Davis is still learning the nuances of flanker, but when he gets position on a defensive back, he’s almost impossible to stop.
Split end is expected to belong to 6-3, 216-pound D.J. Coles , though first he has to prove he’s healthy after missing the spring following knee surgery. The senior is coming off easily his best season, catching 36 balls for 480 yards and three scores predominantly off the bench. Much like Davis, Coles has terrific size, enormous mitts and the physicality to outmuscle defensive backs on jump balls.
Battling Coles at split end will be 6-2, 188-pound senior Dyrell Roberts who received a medical redshirt year after missing all but three games in 2011 with a broken arm. He has always looked the part, but has delivered sporadically throughout his career, making 63 grabs for 965 yards and five scores since arriving in 2008.
With the graduation of Chris Drager, the Hokies are dealing with a free-for-all at tight end. Three players, 6-2, 264-pound senior Eric Martin , 6-2, 244-pound senior Randall Dunn and 6-4, 250-pound sophomore Ryan Malleck are in a dead heat for the job entering the summer. Martin is a glorified guard, a no-frills blocker who caught three balls for 22 yards in 2011. Dunn, on the other hand, is a former wide receiver who thinks he is still a wide receiver. He shows the most potential as a downfield threat. Malleck is the future at tight end, but is the future now? He lettered as a true freshman, and has the dual-threat ability at the position that the staff really likes.
Watch Out For .... Davis to attract nearly as many pro scouts to Blacksburg as his star quarterback, Logan Thomas. He’s built an awful lot Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans, with the bounce in his step to really create matchup problems with defensive backs. The fact that he’s still learning the position is even more of a reason to get excited about his future as a pass-catcher.
Strength: Size and physicality. Virginia Tech is littered with not just tall receivers, but also thick ones, who can win the battles for balls in the air. One of the reasons the Hokies have done so well at average yards per reception in recent years is because the wide receivers are so difficult to drag down to the ground. When Davis and Coles are on the field at the same time, they’ll be able to bully their way to getting good looks.
Weakness: Consistency. Right now, the Hokies wide receivers are better athletes than they are pure pass-catchers. They’ll be doubly dangerous if they can fine-tune their overall game, from the routes they run to the number of balls they drop. The fact that Coles and Roberts have had injury issues has stifled the overall growth of the unit.
Outlook: The Hokies receivers are raw, yet percolating with potential. Davis is about ready to shed his anonymity inside both college and NFL circles. If he can get ample support from the split ends, Coles, Roberts and even senior speedster Corey Fuller , the passing attack is going to be dangerous with Thomas at the controls.
The graduations of four starters, including all-stars Blake DeChristopher and Jaymes Brooks, have left Virginia Tech circling the wagons up front. The lone returning starter, junior C Andrew Miller , is expected to become more of a leader now that he has a full season in the lineup behind him. The 6-4, 300-pound is tough, physical and nasty, bringing the desired attitude to the interior of the Hokies line. He has room for growth in 2012, and the right amount of want-to needed to get there.
Next to Miller at left guard will be 6-1, 286-pound junior David Wang . He was just beginning to get acclimated in 2011 when a broken foot in Week 2 ended his season. While not very big, he’s a real scrapper, the kind of run blocker who gives maximum effort at all times, and won’t finish his block until the play is whistled dead.
The Hokies went the free agent route to land a right guard, getting sophomore Brent Benedict from Georgia. A dispute with the philosophies of new strength and conditioning coach Joe Tereshinski marked the beginning of the end for Benedict in Athens. Lucky Hokies. The 6-5, 311-pounder from Jacksonville, Fla. was a four-star recruit two years ago. While he hasn’t played since suffering a serious knee injury during his senior year of high school, he impressed the Tech staff as a scout team member a year ago with his intensity and drive blocking skills.
It looks as if the vital task of protecting the quarterback’s backside will belong to 6-6, 328-pound senior Nick Becton . The part-time starter, who was in on more than 450 offensive snaps in 2011, has the size, strength and arm length to blossom into an ideal protector of the pocket. He has yet to put it all together in Blacksburg, leaving the staff and fans hopeful that this is the year that he dominates on a weekly basis.
The other half of Tech’s imposing tackle tandem is 6-6, 304-pound senior Vinston Painter . While he certainly looks the part, and has been in the program for a long time, it hasn’t translated to the field. He only played a handful of snaps in 2011, failing to have an impact on the offense. Painter is an outstanding physical specimen, from his size and strength to his quickness, but still must prove that he’s an effective all-around blocker.
Watch Out For .... the Hokies to gel surprisingly well as the season progresses. While the lineup has a very different look than it did for January’s Sugar Bowl, Virginia Tech is fortunate that so many veterans, like Becton and Painter, were seasoned players coming off the bench. Plus, Miller is on his way to becoming one of the ACC’s better centers, and the addition of Benedict could not have come at a better time.
Strength: Run blocking. For many years, this has been the strongest component of the Virginia Tech O-line. The Hokies are typically physical, blue-collar and very difficult to beat in a phone booth, paving the way for a running game that has ranked no lower than 28th nationally in rushing. This will be a big unit, with the physicality and nastiness to move the pile in short yardage.
Weakness: Depth. The starting five may come together just fine, but what happens if someone is injured? The Hokies are in no position to withstand the loss of any of their regulars. The backups are painfully young, inexperienced and a year away from being able to handle a spot in the regular rotation. The staff has got to get the reserves ready in the event of an emergency, while hoping that durability is not an issue in 2012.
Outlook: This is going to be an unavoidable transition year for the offensive line, which will hold the key to the attack’s fortunes in the fall. There are enough veterans with potential, such Becton and Painter, surrounding Miller in the middle to feel optimistic about the rebuilt group’s potential. However, a lack of depth will be an ongoing worry that the staff hopes it doesn’t have to address this season.