Virginia Tech football will open its 2012 regular season against Georgia Tech on national television in exactly eight weeks, and on Monday morning, four Hokies were named to the watch lists for two prestigious national awards.
Leading the group was redshirt junior quarterback Logan Thomas, one of 64 players named to the Maxwell Award watch list given annually to the country’s best football player. In addition, cornerback Kyle Fuller, linebacker Bruce Taylor and defensive end James Gayle were all named to the Bednarik Award watch list, which is given each year to the nation’s best defensive player.
In his first season as a starter last year, Thomas set school records when he threw for 3,013 yards and accounted for 30 total touchdowns (19 passing, 11 rushing). He earned second-team all-ACC honors, but could face a stiffer challenge this season with the loss of running back David Wilson, wide receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, and four starting offensive linemen from a year ago.
Playing a variety of positions because of injuries in Virginia Tech’s linebacking corps last year, Fuller led the Hokies with 14.5 tackles for a loss, earned second-team all-ACC honors and was described by defensive coordinator Bud Foster as the unit’s “MVP.” The rising junior finished with a career-high 65 tackles and a team-high 12 pass break-ups.
Despite being hampered by an ankle injury, Gayle still managed to finish last season tied for sixth in the ACC with seven sacks and earned second-team all-conference honors as a result.
Taylor missed the final six games last year after season-ending foot surgery but finished seventh on the team with 53 tackles. As a redshirt sophomore in 2010, Taylor led the Hokies with 91 tackles – including a team-high 15.5 for loss — and earned second team all-ACC honors.
The Hokies return 10 opening day starters to a defensive unit that finished last year ranked 10th in the country in total defense. Florida State was the only other ACC school to have three players named to the Bednarik Award watch list.
Florida State’s EJ Manuel, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon (Westfield High), North Carolina’s Bryn Renner (West Springfield High) and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington also represented the ACC on the Maxwell Award watch list.