“He wants to make sure that coming back for his last season, he has no excuses as to why anything doesn't work out,” said tight end Zack McCray. “He wants to hold himself, as well as the other younger guys, accountable. He doesn't want to put up with any one running wrong routes, so if they mess up he is not going to let it slide.”
After throwing 16 interceptions last year, Thomas has been clear that he’ll be a much more demanding leader this year, expecting more of both himself and his teammates.
“For me, I just want to be the best leader I can be and motivate my guys — get them ready to go for that day,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to keep doing what we can and keep getting better.”
The quarterback should at least have a little more help at the receiver position this season as the team gets redshirt senior D.J. Coles back from a knee injury that kept him out for most of last season. In addition, younger players like Demetri Knowles and Joshua Stanford have an extra year of development under their belts.
"Honestly, I feel that this year should be a break out year for me,” Knowles said. “They are looking for me to be a big playmaker with this team and I'm hoping I can do that for them."
Although the defense is much more settled than the offense, there are still some key position battles to be resolved. The absence of cornerback Antone Exum for the first few months of the season thanks to his offseason knee injury means freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson are battling to fill his slot in the secondary.
“Right now, we are just competing against each other, going hard in practice each day,” Fuller said. “Whether we are with the ones or the twos, we are getting better.”
Despite the great deal of uncertainty that lingers, the team’s goals remain the same.
“I don’t go in to any season not wanting to win the national championship,” Exum said. “I know a shorter-term goal is the ACC championship. I know last year we didn’t get that done, so that is something we definitely want to achieve this year.”