The case for

The headliner on offense, senior quarterback Logan Thomas, returns to help the Hokies put a sorry 2012 campaign behind them. Though Thomas struggled last fall (18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and an eight-plus-point drop in completion percentage), his dual-threat production as a sophomore reflected his potential. To get back on track, Thomas has spent the off-season working with coordinator Scot Loeffler, one of three offensive coaches brought on by Frank Beamer to kick-start the attack. The rushing game, which was bland in 2012, should find new life with highly touted redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds, who joins J.C. Coleman (492 yards, 2 TDs) in the backfield.

The defense came alive late last season, holding opponents to an average of 15.7 points in the final three games, all victories. The entire line returns, including 6'4", 253-pound shutdown end James Gayle (43 tackles, 16 sacks). In all, the unit brings back nine starters.

The case against

Virginia Tech's 7--6 record in 2012 was Beamer's worst in 20 years with the Hokies. The running game—historically a strength—was a nonfactor, and there's no guarantee that the new coaches can retool an attack with so little experience on offense.

Coach Speak

FRANK BEAMER

SI

Your 7--6 record in 2012 was your worst in two decades. What went wrong?

FB

We had some unusual things happen to us. But when we were sitting at 4--6 and nobody was saying anything good about a team that's won 10 games for eight straight years, that team could have folded. It didn't. To me there are things to draw from that, life lessons.

SI

Logan Thomas experienced a drop in production. What problems did you see in his game?

FB

We were in too many third-and-10 situations. Those are hard. Logan really takes it upon himself to make plays. But he's a mature guy, and he'll learn from last year.

SI

Why the offensive coaching changes?

FB

I felt like we needed something different, a different feeling. We needed to be more consistent with how we run the football and take care of it.

SI

You open with Alabama. How do you prepare?

FB

By playing Alabama, summer workouts and preseason practices are better. Regardless of how the game turns out, I think your program is better. For me it's a tremendous opportunity.

Player to Watch

All-ACC corner Atone Exum is rehabbing a torn right ACL, which creates an opportunity for Kendall Fuller, Tech's top recruit in 2013. The 6-foot 193-pounder is the fourth Fuller in Blacksburg: Kyle is a senior cornerback, while Vincent and Corey are in the NFL.

PHOTODOUGLAS JONES/USA TODAY SPORTS (THOMAS)Logan Thomas PHOTOSTREETER LECKA/GETTY IMAGES (BEAMER) CHART

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)