When Logan Thomas first stepped under center for Virginia Tech as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, fans all over Hokie nation expected the 6-foot-6 260 pounder to be the second coming of Auburn’s Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.
And honestly, who could blame them? Both quarterbacks are built like tight ends, have a knack for escaping the pocket and throw an exceptional deep ball. But, just because they are two rare, physical specimens does not mean they are the same player. In fact, digging below the surface reveals Newton and Thomas are two very different players.
During his 2010 Heisman campaign, Newton threw for 2,854 yards, completing 66.1% of his passes, while throwing for 30 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. He also ran the football 264 times for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns.
In comparison, during the 2011 season Thomas threw for 3,013 yards, with a 59.8% completion percentage, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 469 yards on 153 carries with 11 touchdowns.
The debate begins when fans look at both players’ tendency to run the
football. Yes, both quarterbacks can certainly run; but where Newtown was elusive and made big plays running both through and around defenders, Thomas prefers to seek contact and does not seem to possess the shiftiness of Newton.
While at Auburn, Newton was essentially asked to play running back in addition to quarterback. As a result he piled up huge numbers, leading the Tigers in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Newton also amassed a stunning 5.5 yards per carry. He was the entire offense and the spread offense in which he played was tailored around his unique ability to run and throw the
In 2011 at Tech, Thomas was asked to be more of a true quarterback and his running ability was showcased as a compliment to future first-round draft pick David Wilson. Wilson rushed for 1,709 yards (good for fourth in all of Division I-A) and was the focal point of the Hokie attack, while Thomas gained his 469 rushing yards as a change of pace to Wilson. Thomas was especially known for his ridiculous 11-yard quarterback sneaks, particularly against Georgia Tech and Miami.
In terms of passing, the yardage numbers of the two players are largely similar, but a vast difference can be seen in other passing categories. Newton threw 30 touchdowns, had a
season-long 94-yard completion and averaged 10.2 yards per pass attempt.
On the other hand, Thomas threw 19 touchdowns, had a season-long completion of only 63 yards and averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt. This statistical discrepancy shows that each quarterback not only played in a different offensive scheme, but also played a different style. Newton boasted a cannon for an arm and was known for making the big play, while Thomas continues to be better known for his accuracy on intermediate and short passes.
With a vaguely similar skill set and their stand out size and athleticism, many were quick to herald Thomas as the next Cam Newton. While this comparison was blowing up the media during the 2011 season, the comparison has seemed to simmer over the beginning of this year. With Cam Newton seemingly attempting to throw for negative yards in his second NFL season and Logan Thomas beginning the season slow, both are experiencing what many call a “sophomore slump.”
With their respective struggles, the comparison spotlight has been placed on West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the next Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s 2011 Heisman trophy winner. So far in 2012, Smith has recorded gaudy passing numbers and skyrocketed up NFL draft boards in eerily similar way to what RGIII did at Baylor a year ago.
Yet, Griffin’s playmaking ability at quarterback is built around his track-star speed and athleticism, while Smith has progressed as a quarterback by perfecting things such as his vision and ability to read defenses in order to make up for his lack of tremendous athleticism.
Seemingly every year there is a comparison between an NFL rookie and a collegiate star, with the media overhyping how similar the two are. While Thomas and Newton are similar in many ways, Thomas will never be the same quarterback as Newton. The same goes for Smith and RGIII.
Even though Newton and Thomas have struggled in 2012, just because they are of similar, impressive stature does not mean that they are the same player.