Thomas, a redshirt sophomore, has tallied 2,338 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air and 387 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He ranks No. 3 in the ACC in total offense (247.7 yards per game).
As dynamic a talent as Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson is, the Virginia defense knows that if it plans to contain the Hokies’ offense Saturday at Scott Stadium, Thomas has to be the focal point.
Thomas stands 6 feet 6 and 254 pounds, and indeed, the first thing Virginia players and coaches note when discussing Thomas is his imposing size. Junior linebacker Steve Greer called Thomas “kind of like a Ben Roethlisberger-type quarterback,” referring to the 6-5, 241-pound Pittsburgh Steelers signal-caller.
“Somebody said he’s like a fullback the way he runs, but that’s not true,” Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid said Tuesday. “He’s like a massive giant when he runs. I’ve watched him run the quarterback sneak for  yards running through everybody. Nobody could stop him.”
Reid was referring to Thomas’s rush up the middle on fourth and one with less than one minute remaining in the fourth quarter Oct. 8 against Miami. Thomas ran 19 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Reid said Thomas made a “marvelous read” and called it a “tremendous play.” Virginia Tech defeated the Hurricanes, 38-35.
The Cavaliers have been much improved against the run this season, and they’ll have their work cut out for them Saturday. The Hokies’ offense features Wilson, who ranks No. 4 in the nation in rushing yards per game (131.1), as well as Thomas, whom Virginia safety Rodney McLeod compared to Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel (6-4, 223 pounds).
Manuel – who ranks No. 2 in the ACC in total offense (254.3 yards per game) – broke off a 20-yard run Saturday during Virginia’s 14-13 victory at Florida State, but other than that, the Cavaliers contained Manuel on the ground quite capably. Manuel didn’t record another rush longer than eight yards, was sacked three times and finished with a net rushing gain of 20 yards on 10 carries. He tallied 200 passing yards.
As for Thomas, one of the keys for Virginia on Saturday will be limiting his effectiveness on option reads. On Tuesday, Reid was asked how the Cavaliers plan to do just that.
“I’m not sure you can,” Reid said. “You have rules of defense. You have [defensive assignments]. That’s what you have to try to do. I don’t know that anybody’s had much success with it so far [against Thomas], so we’ve just got to do the best that we can. It’s going to be a major, major, major challenge.”