What has changed, though, is Thomas’s role within the offense. With a new running back, a new set of starting wide receivers and four new linemen this year, Thomas knows he must step up his game in a multitude of ways if he wants to build on his record-setting first year starting under center.
“I want to make this offense the best it can be, with my play and the people around me. Make them have confidence in themselves, make everybody excited and ready to go and make sure they know what to do,” Thomas said. “I view it as my offense and what we do reflects on me and what I do reflects of them.”
Quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain wants Thomas to focus on improving his skills reading the entire field before the snap, something that got him into trouble the few times he did make mistakes during his inaugural season starting under center for the Hokies.
To that end, Thomas talked Wednesday about his spring break trip to San Diego to work out with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has also trained Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger in recent years. Thomas said he picked up some new drills that will help his footwork and accuracy as he makes “the next step.”
He said the main lesson he took from his time with Whitfield was that he needs to “build a strong base and keep repeating it over and over again” no matter what part of his game it may involve. But Thomas isn’t ready just yet to be mentioned in the same breath as some of Whitfield’s former clients.
“Those guys are world champions, number one picks. I’m not comparing myself to those guys,” Thomas said. “I’m just working to be like those guys and hopefully in the next few years, I can do that.”
Assorted notes and quotes from day one
***Offensive lineman David Wang is back at full speed after breaking his foot at East Carolina last September, but the Stone Bridge grad felt a little rusty during Wednesday’s practice. He also weighs just 288 pounds and believes he’ll need to be up at 295 or 300 by the fall if he plans to be a starting guard on the offensive line.
He joked that when he broke the foot, he thought it was just a sprain and actually played another 14 snaps on the injury. “I didn’t believe it at first, but it was a heartbreaker,” said Wang, whose older brother Ed was also a starting offensive lineman for the Hokies and now plays in the NFL. “I was doing so good, and they just said you can’t play anymore for that season.”
The Hokies’ other starting guard, Brent Benedict, is still making an initial impression on offensive line coach Curt Newsome even though he has now been in Blacksburg for close to eight months. Newsome likes that Benedict is the physical sort by nature and that he had a great offseason in the weight room, getting stronger while also dropping 15 pounds. He’s currently listed at 311 pounds.
“We recruited him, we went down to Jacksonville when he was coming out of high school, so I knew what kind of kid he was, but as far as a football player at this level, we’re still learning,” Newsome said. “He’s got a physical presence and that’s what you like about him, but there’s some technical issues.”
As for the offensive line as a whole, Newsome likes that he has a bunch of guys who have been in Virginia Tech’s system for multiple years, but developing cohesion with so many new starters will be the key to a successful spring in trenches.
“These guys have not played on Saturday . . . and we’ve got to get them to that point this spring,” Newsome said.
***Special teams were a big focus of practice and will continue to be throughout the spring. Coach Frank Beamer hovered over the punters and kickers, and all of them got a chance to impress him. Sophomore Michael Branthover, senior Scott Demler, redshirt sophomore Conor Goulding, new walk-on Skyler Hucheson and even holder Trey Gresh each took significant reps, but kicking spots are so fluid right now that Virginia Tech is holding another tryout Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, 11 players fielded punts and kicks during the practice session, including wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Detrick Bonner, safety Kyshoen Jarrett and wide receiver Demetri Knowles.