Calling last season’s offense a train wreck might be an insult to locomotive collisions.
Quarterback Logan Thomas was inaccurate, the play calling was uncreative, and it all resulted in Virginia Tech's most disappointing football season in 20 years.
Accordingly, there have been big changes at the top of the offensive coaching staff. Bryan Stinespring is out as offensive coordinator, and former Auburn offensive boss Scot Loeffler is in for the Hokies.
He’s tasked with repairing Thomas’ broken delivery and reforming an offense that ranked 75th in the country in total yards.
“Are we there yet with (Thomas)? No,” Loeffler said. “But we’re making strides.”
Loeffler has coached a variety of quarterbacks that have gone on to play professionally, including big names like Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese and Chad Henne, and the Hokies hope he can help get the passer to play like a pro.
“The guy reminds me of the guys that I’ve had that play in the NFL,” Loeffler said. “He picks things up fast. You don’t correct things for a month. You tell him once, he gets it and moves along.”
With just four weeks of practice under their belts, it already seems like the coordinator and the quarterback are meshing well. Loeffler’s time as a former quarterback at Michigan seems to have given him unique insight into some of Thomas’ troubles.
“(Loeffler's) a quarterback, and quarterbacks strive for perfection,” Thomas said. “We’re the same way. He wants things to be perfect right out of the gate, and so do I, but I know also that it takes time.”
Loeffler has particularly focused on Thomas’ footwork and body position, which he believes were large part of his accuracy issues last season, and he’s already seeing improvement from the signal caller.
“I think his release is quicker,” Loeffler said. “Taking the right footwork, tempo, I thought he was outstanding."
Thomas has noticed some initial improvement as well.
“I think you all can tell the ball was coming out of my hand well,” Thomas said. “I’m putting the ball where I want it, and I’m putting it there with a lot of velocity as well.”
Since the offense will be losing key receivers like Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller from last year’s squad, Thomas’ chemistry with the wideouts will be essential to the unit’s success. Some have already noticed a difference from last season.
“I’m feeling that me and him, and all the other receivers, are getting that chemistry that we lacked last year,” said Demetri Knowles, a sophomore wideout.
Pass catchers like Knowles will be the biggest beneficiaries of Thomas’ return to form, and they’ve taken note of the quarterback’s mechanical improvements as well.
“Last year, in certain cases, you’d have to come back to the ball,” Knowles said. “Now he’s completely on it. You just have to look at him and the ball is there.”
Some suggested that some of Thomas’ problems last year stemmed from the constant pounding he took due to his substantial role in the running game. The offense never found a real lead running back in 2012, and the frequency of Thomas’ quarterback runs caused him to lead the team in both rushing yards and attempts with 726 yards on 174 carries.
Loeffler says this reliance on the quarterback as a runner will be a thing of the past.
“We’re down (in the red zone) and we need to pull the ball and run it naked with Logan? That’s not our mentality,” Loeffler said. “We want to line up and we want to knock people off the ball and we want to run the ball into the end zone."
Associate head coach and running backs coach Shane Beamer echoed that mentality.
“It’s ridiculous that our leading rusher was our quarterback last year,” Shane said. “At a place like Virginia Tech, as the running backs coach, that can’t happen.”