Sometimes, George Whitfield would speak over the phone with quarterback Logan Thomas only a few hours after a particularly disheartening loss this year. After other games, Thomas would wait a few days before dialing up the Los Angeles-based quarterback guru known for training NFL signal-callers Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger.
But during a season that didn’t go as Thomas hoped, the two held almost weekly conversations about it, continuing a relationship that began last spring when Thomas first trained with Whitfield in San Diego.
And though there was plenty to critique after Thomas threw 14 interceptions and saw his completion percentage fall to 52.6 percent, Whitfield always kept in mind that Thomas is only five years removed from almost exclusively playing tight end.
“I think he just went through a learning experience quarterbacks have,” Whitfield said this week when asked to evaluate Thomas’s season. “I know 12-year-old quarterbacks that have started four or five years. It’s a maturation process and you’re learning at the highest level. It’s hard to discount even if physically, he’s like a marvel. In terms of just seeing circumstances and situations and all that, you need the at-bats.”
Whitfield remains passionate in his belief that Thomas is one of the top college quarterback prospects in the country. Regardless of whether Thomas decides to return to Virginia Tech for his senior season or declare for the NFL draft, he has already made plans to work with Whitfield again this offseason.
Whitfield declined to characterize his discussions with Thomas related to the NFL. But he did note that the 6-foot-6, 260-pound specimen remains “a work in progress,” adding that quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers all started four years in college before moving onto the NFL.
Thomas hasn’t shied away from that assessment, admitting last week that “I don’t think I could go in and start an NFL game right now and be fine and come out with a win.” But at times during the season, Whitfield said, Thomas could be really hard on himself.
“I had to remind Logan: ‘You’re not the only guy that got caught. You’re not the only one that didn’t get away or had a rough part,’ ” Whitfield said. “There’s a couple guys, and guys much more experienced than you, more veteran than you are, and quite frankly, in higher-powered offenses than you, that also had power outage every now and again. I just think he’s got to keep learning from it.”
Virginia Tech’s offensive scheme under offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring has long been a point of contention for fans. This year, the Hokies began using the pistol formation and more misdirection to better take advantage of Thomas’s skills. It didn’t work out as consistently as the team hoped, with Virginia Tech lacking the power run game that had been a staple under Coach Frank Beamer.
From watching the Hokies, it was clear to Whitfield that “they were probably more of a veteran team last year and maybe even a little more talented.” That meant Thomas was asked to do more than ever, and Whitfield thinks the redshirt junior could have done a better job running the offense.
“I’ll just say when you earn the quarterback job at a school, it’s your responsibility to go execute whatever their offense is. And so, Virginia Tech, they don’t need to be Oregon. They’ve never been Oregon and won 10 games for years and years.
“Even as the offense was a bit under construction, there were opportunities and plays that he’ll look back on and say, ‘Man, there’s an opportunity there to succeed in this moment or succeed in that moment.’ They don’t need a Hollywood quarterback coach telling them how to run their offense. I just think he’s got to execute it as it’s laid out.”
Whitfield believes the key to Thomas’s development going forward is developing consistency, particularly with his footwork and throwing motion under pressure. Thomas said last week that he tends to drop his shoulder on some passes, which caused many of his overthrows on short and intermediate routes.
But whenever Whitfield talks about Thomas, it isn’t long before he brings up how little time Thomas has had under center compared with many of his counterparts. That’s why a season in which Thomas appeared to regress could end up being the best thing that happened to him.
“I think that’s really the hidden beauty of this year. Now . . . he can go back and see all these things and he’s got two full years at Virginia Tech on film as a starter,” Whitfield said. “The sky’s the limit. I know how the NFL feels about him and his potential, but for him, it’s really gonna be how much can he cull from this year, and not just the film or what the past experiences have shown, or how he felt about it.
“Now he realizes just how pivotal his performance is.”