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Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas develops mean edge in the offseason

FootballVirginia Tech HokiesAtlantic Coast ConferenceNFL DraftNorth Carolina Tar HeelsRussell Athletic Bowl

GREENSBORO, N.C. — After enduring a 7-6 season, seeing his NFL draft stock take a nosedive and hearing grumbles from Hokie faithful, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is tired of being at the top of the list for the most congenial prize.

Now he just wants to win games. Heading into a senior season that starts Aug. 31 with the toughest possible draw in the form of two-time defending national champion Alabama, Thomas is advertising a more unrelenting attitude toward the shortcomings of teammates.

If the situation calls for Thomas to be a jerk, he's got it in him.

"I really haven't held my tongue much lately," said Thomas on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., at the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff preseason media gathering. "You all probably see I'm not all smiles and stuff like I used to be."

With the arrival of new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, Thomas seems to have discovered a newfound confidence. It doesn't hurt that Thomas has had the reins loosened in terms of what he's going to be permitted to do on the field this season.

Thomas said under former offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who is now Tech's recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, and former quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain, he was never able to make his own adjustments at the line of scrimmage based on what he saw. Everything came from the sideline or the coaches' booth.

"It honestly makes it tough when you see a blitz coming, and you can't do anything about it," said Thomas, who added he's gained more confidence because he knows he's "not going to get hit in my chin.

"You just know you've got to throw it to a hot (route).

"I've got full control of it. I didn't have any of it last year. I had the huddle call last year and that was it. Now, I can change in and out and stuff."

Loeffler has given him the ability to look for blitzes and make changes when necessary, according to Thomas. He said the way he absorbs information has improved since Loeffler was hired in January.

"It's the way he teaches it," Thomas said. "He explains it very easily. It's very smooth to understand him because … he's played (quarterback), he understands it, he's been to the NFL and he's been to all these different colleges."

From a mechanical standpoint, Thomas has talked repeatedly about making sure everything — shoulder, hips and feet — is lined up before releasing the ball. His erratic form last season was a big reason he completed just 51.3 percent of his passes (down from 59.8 percent in 2011) for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

"I'm not going to have 16 interceptions," said Thomas regarding a number that tied for the most interceptions for a Tech quarterback in a season since 1972, when Don Strock threw 27. "I can promise you that."

Thomas, a 6-foot-6 Lynchburg native who said he's dropped seven pounds to get down to 250, has set fewer than five interceptions and 62 percent completions as goals for the coming season. He led Tech with 524 yards rushing and nine touchdowns last season, but he said he won't be running the ball as much this coming season.

Of course, there's more to turning around poor completion percentage than simply tweaking mechanics. North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner, who enters the season as one of the most accurate passers in ACC history (66.7 percent for his career), likens passing precision to a pitcher hitting the strike zone.

"I've been calling it 'locating a pitch,'" Renner said.

"I think a lot of it is the way you get coached. (UNC offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Blake) Anderson harps on locating the ball. If it's not perfect every time, he's going to get on me."

Though they're still getting to know each other, Thomas already has seen the ugly side of Loeffler — the angry red face in practice, globs of spit pouring out when frustration hits, but Thomas insists he and Loeffler have yet to snap at each other.

Tech linebacker Jack Tyler said Thomas has been far less shy about showing that same side of himself. It's a significant change from how business was done last season in Blacksburg.

"We needed it," Tyler said. "It was definitely necessary. Last year, I think that was one of the detriments to our team. We didn't have that senior leadership. We didn't have people making sure we were doing the right things and making sure we were working as hard as possible, making us fight through that extra conditioning, making us fight through our last reps in the weight room. We have that this year."

As soon as Tech finished last season with a less-than inspiring 13-10 overtime win against Rutgers in Russell Athletic Bowl, Thomas started his personality transformation. His biggest change? He said he doesn't care what outsiders think anymore.

"I'm not letting people slack off or cut corners or anything like that," Thomas said. "That's what develops bad habits."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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FootballVirginia Tech HokiesAtlantic Coast ConferenceNFL DraftNorth Carolina Tar HeelsRussell Athletic Bowl
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