“Don’t follow in the footsteps of the people before you. Be your own person,” Thomas recalled him saying earlier this week. “It kind of hit home because of the situation we’re in.”
But while Wilson has something of a track record as he prepares to take over for NFL prospects Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, Thomas spent much of his first two years at Virginia Tech on the sidelines watching the exploits of Tyrod Taylor.
As a result, there is much on Thomas’s plate, from emerging as a leader to mastering an entire playbook. But how he handles the pressure that comes from Taylor’s shadow is a question that will stretch beyond spring practice and into the fall.
“Tyrod broke every record known to man in this school’s history, but you just can’t think about that,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to go out there and play your game. You’re not gonna be the greatest player from day one . . . and to the fans that expect to see something like that, of course it’s not gonna be the same because we’re two completely different quarterbacks.”
The differences start physically. Thomas is a towering 6-foot-6, 245-pound specimen more accustomed to being a pocket passer. His size 18 feet are so big that Thomas said defensive coordinator Bud Foster used to jokingly wonder if “he could go skiing” in his shoes.
Thomas is no slouch athletically — he could have played Division 1-A basketball, has been clocked in the 4.6-second range in the 40-yard dash and lined up as a wide receiver to make a diving touchdown catch against Central Michigan last season — but he’s not as elusive as the 6-foot-1 Taylor.
Unlike Taylor, who’s been a quarterback his entire life, Thomas arrived at Virginia Tech as the No. 1 tight end recruit in the country, expecting to see playing time immediately. He did, however, play quarterback his final two seasons at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va. So on the first day of preseason practices before the 2009 campaign, the coaching staff asked him to move back behind center.
Thomas obliged, but said he still thinks about what could have been if he’d stayed at tight end.
“Those moments come here and there all the time,” said Thomas. “I probably had one this spring. I enjoy where I’m at . . . but, oh yeah, [last] fall I just wanted to be on the field helping the team. You have those days where you’re having a bad day, missing all your targets, and you say, ‘Why can’t I just be out there catching the ball?’ ”
Thomas spent much of his redshirt year, and even last season when he was Taylor’s backup, overhauling his throwing motion. Thomas used to bring the ball all the way down before his release, a habit that gave him ample arm strength but slowed his delivery and made him susceptible to overthrowing receivers.
“He would miss and you’d go, ‘Where the heck did that come from,’ ” quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said. “Now he misses occasionally, but he’s usually pretty close.”
Following a 214-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Friday night scrimmage, Thomas’s delivery bears little proof of its former flaws, and he’s 29 of 53 for 499 yards, two touchdowns and one interception this spring. But much of Virginia Tech’s belief in him stems from one play last fall.
With Taylor woozy after taking a big hit, the Hokies faced third and 16, trailing Miami, 7-0, in the second quarter. Thomas entered the contest cold and completed a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Danny Coale. Taylor returned to the field for the next play, and Virginia Tech ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive and winning the game.
These days the sequence is more important to Coach Frank Beamer because “it said a lot about what kind of kid Logan is.” Still, until he confirms it consistently this fall, even Thomas’s biggest allies must remain skeptics.
“All of us have one good game and one play. Tyrod has proven it over a career and Logan is beginning his,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “I think that’s where you’ve got to stop the comparison.”