The distinction is an important one now that Virginia Tech is three days into training camp and less than a month away from starting Beamer’s 25th season as head coach. Unlike the past few years, when the preseason focus seemed to be whether the Hokies could finally win more than just a conference championship, the spotlight this season belongs to Thomas.
Though he’s now charged with taking the mantle from former quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the 6-foot-6, 254-pound redshirt sophomore admitted Saturday this wasn’t the sort of pressure he initially wanted coming out of high school.
“When I was going through the recruiting process, my ideals were anybody that offers me as a quarterback is already written off. So I wasn’t thinking quarterback whatsoever,” said Thomas, who noted Virginia Tech offered a scholarship to him as an H-back even though he played quarterback during his final two seasons at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va.
But by the time he arrived on campus before Virginia Tech’s 2009 training camp, Thomas was told the coaching staff wanted to see how he looked at quarterback for a couple weeks. “I guess they liked me there, and I like it there now just as well,” Thomas said sheepishly.
Thomas took a redshirt his first year in Blacksburg and played understudy to Taylor last season. As a result Beamer sees a lot of the same leadership qualities in the two quarterbacks. What Thomas lacks, though, is experience. He’s thrown just 26 passes, completing 12 of them.
Perhaps more important, then, is the supporting cast that will aid Thomas in his first season as a starter. Wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, who barring injury will become Virginia Tech’s all-time leading receiver this season, leads a talented group of receivers that Beamer thinks could be the biggest strength of this year’s team. There’s also dynamic running back David Wilson, who had 11 total touchdowns in 2010, and a veteran offensive line that returns four starters from a year ago.
Ultimately, though, the Hokies will only go as far as their new quarterback can take them — especially with a defense that features six new starters and has “a lot of growing up to do quickly,” according to defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
But count Beamer among those convinced Thomas should be just fine.
“I firmly believe if he continues to develop, he’s gonna be in the NFL as a quarterback. That’s what I felt and that’s what I told him,” he said.
New practice facility
Virginia Tech announced it has begun fundraising for a new indoor practice facility that would be used primarily by the football team. Tom Gabbard, the school’s associate athletic director for internal affairs, said plans call for a $25 million project, which would also include renovations of the existing Rector Field House.
Gabbard said there is already about $5 million raised, and another $2-3 million the school has set aside for the project. He added that the school will not begin construction until all the money is raised.
The facility, which would also be used by the school’s women’s lacrosse and soccer teams, will be located in a wooded area adjacent to where the football team’s outdoor practice fields are now.
“When we get that, I truly think we will have the best facilities in the country,” Beamer said. “I think we’re close right now.”