By Zac Ellis
Throughout the offseason SI.com is highlighting teams, players and coaches with something to prove heading into the 2013 season. To check out every edition of this series, click here.
There seemed to be plenty of reason to buy into the Logan Thomas hype entering the 2012 season. Virginia Tech's stocky 6-foot-6 passer -- whose potential had many NFL draft experts salivating -- was coming off a redshirt sophomore campaign full of promise; he led the Hokies to an 11-3 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl in 2011. At a glance, he looked like the prototypical quarterback prospect, and his blend of size and arm strength made him a projected first-round pick on several preseason draft boards.
But as Virginia Tech stumbled to an underwhelming 7-6 mark, Thomas' stock dropped significantly. His statistics suffered in turn:
• 2011: 234-of-391, 3,013 yards, 59.8 completion percentage, 19 TDs, 10 INTs, 135.5 QB rating
• 2012: 220-of-429, 2,976 yards, 51.3 completion percentage, 18 TDs, 16 INTs, 115.9 QB rating
Thomas took a step back in every category in 2012, and his 51.3 completion percentage was an ACC-low for starting quarterbacks. His inaccuracy plagued him throughout the season: The junior finished twice as many games with two or more interceptions last year (six) as he did in 2011 (three), including a three-interception clunker in a 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 15. For all of his natural talent, he just couldn't put the pieces together.
Even more discouraging: Thomas failed to make strides by season's end, at least compared to the year before. He completed only 44.8 percent of his passes with a 98.1 quarterback rating over his final three games in 2012. By contrast, Thomas connected on 59.9 percent of his attempts and recorded a 131.2 rating over his final three games in 2011.
It's also worth taking note of Thomas' last two bowl performances. In a 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, Thomas put up admirable numbers, finishing 19-of-28 with no touchdowns and one pick. But against Rutgers in last December's Russell Athletic Bowl, Thomas turned in his worst performance of the season. He went a paltry 18-of-38 and stumbled to a 78.2 quarterback rating; the Hokies still outlasted the Scarlet Knights in overtime, but Thomas failed to close out the season on a positive note.
Given the major dip in his NFL stock, Thomas wisely opted to return to Blacksburg for his senior campaign. But he didn't impress during spring practice, either, tossing three interceptions in Virginia Tech's scrimmage on April 20. The Hokies' offense is still adjusting to life under new coordinator Scot Loeffler, but coach Frank Beamer wasn't happy with what he saw out of Thomas. "I can tell you there's more to our offense than what we showed today," Beamer told reporters after the spring game.
Virginia Tech's offense returns only four starters from last year, with two offensive linemen and its top three receivers (Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts) having departed. That places an added onus on Thomas to produce with both his arm and his legs. He was the Hokies' leading rusher last season with 524 yards on the ground.
For all of the questions, however, the good news for Thomas might be Virginia Tech's conference schedule. The Hokies avoid Florida State and Clemson completely. They'll take on defending BCS champion Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta on Aug. 31, but they play only three teams that finished 2012 with winning records -- East Carolina, North Carolina and Miami -- the rest of the way. Thomas has a rare skill set, and can make throws that many other quarterbacks can't. But to resurrect his draft stock and Virginia Tech's 2013 hopes, he has to finally translate his tantalizing potential into production.