Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was in the middle of comparing new starting running back Michael Holmes to his old one, ACC player of the year David Wilson, when suddenly the biggest challenge he must embrace this season came into focus.

And it has nothing to do with the sort of statistics that would confirm Thomas is a potential top-five NFL draft pick and a dark-horse Heisman candidate.

“You could always count on [Wilson] to bring the energy every day,” Thomas said. “Mike brings it, but he doesn’t bring it with his mouth.”

A year after setting school records for total offense and rushing touchdowns, Thomas is now the face of the Hokies’ offense. Gone are Wilson, the two most prolific wide receivers in Virginia Tech history and an offensive line featuring four redshirt seniors.

The coaching staff remains confident Holmes, wide receivers Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles and a revamped offensive line are capable of filling those roles. But none of them are proven commodities like Thomas is at this point, and it’s become increasingly clear it will be up to him to “rally us all together,” play caller and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said this week.

“Last year he didn’t have to do that all that much. We had an experienced group where we had a lot of leaders. … Because there’ll be some tough times Monday night. It’s not gonna go completely just like you draw it up and that’s where he’ll have to take charge and keep everybody’s head about them. He is that way himself, so I anticipate him being able to do that.”

This natural coolness, more than the 3,013 yards he passed for a year ago or the 279 total yards and five touchdowns he racked up at Georgia Tech in last season’s 37-26 victory, is what excites Virginia Tech coaches with Thomas entering a second season starting under center. As Coach Frank Beamer said this week: “You never saw him get rattled last year. He’s always in control.”

For Thomas, though, all this new responsibility is really just a return to the norm.

“I’ve always been kind of outspoken. I’ve always been in the leadership role all through my life,” the 6-foot-6, 260-pound redshirt junior said. “I’ve always kind of been the best player on the team or the person everybody looks up to because I’m the tallest, the biggest, so I’ve always kind been in that role. I’ve been prepared for that role, and I guess last year because I was one of the young, unproven guys I didn’t say too much. Now I’m just able to walk right back into my role and how I’ve always been.”

O’Cain said this week Thomas is a better quarterback than he was a year ago because “he’s smarter.” Despite his gaudy statistics in 2011, the Lynchburg native is still only a few years into his quarterback development after coming to Virginia Tech as a tight end.

Thomas has been more decisive in training camp, because “I’ve had a chance to see what defenses will do and I’ve had a chance to play and understand what the game is going to be like.”

But that relative naivete is what has pro scouts drooling over Thomas’s potential at the next level. With a big season, many predict he could be one of the first quarterbacks selected in next year’s NFL draft.

Thomas claims that is not on his mind right now. Not a fan of the spotlight to begin with, he’s trying to remain the same person off the field while morphing himself into the sort of leader Virginia Tech will need this season.

“I’ve never really had a problem with, I guess, the limelight,” Thomas said this week. “I’m just trying not to pay attention when people say things about Heisman or national championship. We just want to take it a game at a time and if the accolades come, we welcome it. But if not, we’re just going to still play football for the same reasons we played when we were 5 or 6 years old.”