EL PASO — There were no grand gestures when Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas jogged onto a local high school field for the last full practice of his college football career Sunday afternoon. The most prolific quarterback in program history, just days away from moving on to the next chapter in his life, seemed to like it that way.
“Status quo,” Hokies associate head coach Shane Beamer said as the 6-foot-6 Thomas ambled by, donning his familiar No. 3 yellow practice jersey.
If Thomas is savoring these last moments in a Hokies uniform, he won’t allow his emotions to show it. Which is exactly what Coach Frank Beamer has come to appreciate about Thomas over the years.
“He’s been so good for Virginia Tech,” Frank Beamer said. “There’s been some ups and downs from a team standpoint and sometimes from his standpoint, but I’ve never seen him be up and down. He’s always a steady guy. . . . The perfect leader for a football team.”
Thomas will play his final game for Virginia Tech on Tuesday against No. 17 UCLA in the Sun Bowl, and he leaves with a complicated legacy.
No quarterback in school history has started more games in a row, accounted for more yards of total offense or scored more touchdowns, either passing or rushing. But unlike other predecessors in Virginia Tech’s record book, the Lynchburg native will leave without a league championship or Bowl Championship Series bowl win.
He entered last season as a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft only to face a backlash when the Hokies endured their worst campaign in 20 years.
Thomas has 29 interceptions over the past two seasons, and fair or not, he seems to understand the criticism that followed is as much a part of his development as any of his best throws.
“I’m definitely a lot more hardened than I was,” Thomas said. “I used to listen to stuff, take stuff and put it on my shoulders. Now I still hear it, but I kind of just throw it out the window. I don’t pay much attention to it, because it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve had to grow up a lot. That’s what college does to you, especially the game of football.”
Though he hasn’t garnered all-ACC honors since a record-setting first season as a starter in 2011, Thomas said he doesn’t regret returning to Blacksburg for his senior season.
It allowed him to connect with first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, a quarterback guru who clicked with Thomas from the start.
The Hokies’ overall offense was statistically worse than a year ago, but Thomas’s passer efficiency rating and completion percentage both improved. He had not played in a passing scheme based on progression reads and did it with an inexperienced supporting cast around him.
“This year, especially, was fun for me because I feel I learned the game of football the way it’s supposed to be learned. I picked up things about protection and stuff I didn’t know existed,” said Thomas, one of six quarterbacks to accept an invitation to next month’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
“Me and [Loeffler] have talked about it, and he said, ‘If I had had you for three or four years, you would have been gone already and you’d have been a first-round pick.’ I can’t say I would. Can’t say I wouldn’t. Obviously didn’t have him. I think I made such a jump this year. I think he’s right.”
How that translates to his final college game remains a mystery, largely because Thomas rarely allows himself to show any emotions at this point.
A half-decade at Virginia Tech has taught him that’s the best course of action.
“It’d be a good cap to my career here,” he said. “I would love to go out with a bang.”
Notes: Frank Beamer announced that junior Michael Branthover, an All-Met from DeMatha, will handle place-kicking duties.
The Hokies had been using freshman walk-on Eric Kristensen for short field goal attempts since Beamer kicked senior Cody Journell out of the program for a violation of team rules last month.
Branthover had been designated as the team’s kicker on longer field goal attempts but has not attempted a field goal in a game since his days at DeMatha.
Branthover, who served as Virginia Tech's punter two years ago, will become the fourth place kicker the Hokies have used this season.
“I’d rather have the one guy in there kicking, and if he has to kick the critical field goal, he’s been in the game kicking the extra point or another field goal," Beamer said. . . . Defensive coordinator Bud Foster confirmed senior cornerback Kyle Fuller (core muscle surgery) will be a game-time decision. Senior cornerback Antone Exum has officially been ruled out of Tuesday’s game.