That is not the 20/20 you want in an offense.
Despite Tech’s offensive struggles in a 17-10 victory at East Carolina and 23-3 loss to Clemson, the program doesn’t require such drastic measures. Not yet.
Thomas has been the starting quarterback and O’Cain the play-caller for all of five games. Both confronted a learning curve, and it’s showed, especially versus ECU and Clemson. But less than half a season is hardly enough time to form conclusions.
As for the annual, occasionally justified carping about Stinespring: With O’Cain now calling plays, Stinespring’s the OC in name only.
Besides, a team’s core philosophy is driven by the head coach, and as long as future Hall of Famer Frank Beamer is leading his alma mater, the Hokies are unlikely to become Houston East.
That said, with Miami headed for Blacksburg this week, Tech (4-1, 0-1 ACC) needs to improve the sagging offense ASAP. Some involves better coaching; some involves better playing.
Start with the headliner. David Wilson leads the ACC in rushing and is a pleasure to watch. His reverse-field, 19-yard run and kickoff-return streamrolling of Bashaud Breeland in Saturday’s loss to Clemson will make Hokies highlights for years to come.
But Wilson has lost three fumbles in the last four games. His fumble and Thomas’ interception saddled Tech with turnovers on its first two possessions Saturday, derailing promising drives.
Thomas’ picks are also a problem. He’s thrown five in 132 passes, as many as Tyrod Taylor did in 315 attempts last season.
But Taylor was a senior, and Thomas is a sophomore. Growing pains were and are inevitable.
One emailer this week noted that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is also a sophomore and has been far more productive than Thomas. Indeed, Boyd leads the ACC in passing (291.8 yards per game) and total offense (308.4 yards per game).
But Boyd has brain-cramped, too. He attempted a backward pass under duress against Florida State that the Seminoles returned for a touchdown and that could have cost Clemson the game.
Moreover, Boyd has more dynamic receivers than Thomas does in Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen, and he operates in a more high-tech spread offense.
Compounding Thomas’ growing pains are injuries to receivers Dyrell Roberts (out for the season with a broken arm) and Marcus Davis (week-to-week with a sprained foot). Without Roberts and Davis to stretch the field, the Hokies’ passing game has shriveled into a series of screens and slants intended for Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale and Wilson.
Part of that is personnel. Part of that is play-calling, and O’Cain acknowledged Saturday that he regretted not taking a few more shots downfield.
That said, longer routes require more sustained protection, and there the offensive line has fizzled at times, forcing Tech to keep more blockers around Thomas, which in turn makes fewer receivers easier for a defense to blanket.