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We've reached the end of our countdown of the players we feel like are most important to Virginia Tech rebounding from last season's 7-6 finish. And the player on top should come as no surprise.
The Hokies hired three new offensive coaches in January and while that will make a big difference, the biggest one will come down to the general on the field. And he's as crucial a piece as they come.
In preparation for what will be an important 2013 campaign, we cast our votes for the 13 most important players to a successful season. This includes all aspects of the game, both offensively and defensively, but also special teams, like kicking and return.
Players received 13 points for each first place vote, 12 points for each second place vote, etc. In a case of a tie, the players voted on by more staff members won the tie-breaker. If both players had been voted on by the same number of staff members, the next tie-breaker is which player had the highest vote by a staff member.
Our countdown concludes at No. 1 with quarterback Logan Thomas.
Jason Stamm, publisher
There's one player that without question, Virginia Tech will go as far as he takes him. And look no further than at quarterback, with Thomas.
Thomas will be the first to admit that he didn't play nearly as well as he would have liked last year and even though Virginia Tech finished with a Russell Athletic Bowl win, it was an overall disappointment. There's a few reasons why Thomas returned, one of the foremost being that he didn't want to end his Hokies career with the worst record Virginia Tech's had in 20 years.
Numbers-wise, his 2,976 yards passing wasn't far from the 3,013 the year before when the Hokies finished 11-3. But his completion percentage dropped from 59.8 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent last season.
Thomas also made a number of questionable decisions, best illustrated by his 16 interceptions, though he also had a number of big incompletions that won't show up in the stats.
Entering last season, Thomas was widely thought to be one of the top college quarterbacks, especially in terms of NFL Draft stock. There's no reason why he can't get to that level again.
The biggest hope for Virginia Tech fans is the arrival of offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. His new offense should give Thomas more protection and adhere more to his strengths. Plus, he should also not take such a pounding like he did last season, with his 174 carries and being sacked 25 times. Plus, Loeffler spent plenty of time with Thomas this spring, working on his play in the pocket and getting his confidence back, though Thomas' three spring game interceptions didn't calm many nerves.
Make no mistake, this is Thomas' team. He has the experience, the poise and the ability, but if he really wants to end his career on a high-note, he has to resemble the quarterback he was two years ago.
Doug Bowman, senior writer
In 2011, Thomas was superb and Virginia Tech finished 11-1 in the regular season. In 2012, Thomas was, honestly, a below average quarterback and the Hokies dropped to 7-6.
Granted, the Hokies had some really talented skill players in 2011 (looking at you Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, and David Wilson), but the fact remains the same. When Thomas plays up to his potential, the Hokies are a much better team.
Loeffler and Thomas are working on regaining that 2011 form, and it is imperative that he does just that if the Hokies want another ACC Championship.
Thomas faces a huge test - one that NFL Scouts will focus on throughout the next year - against Alabama on opening weekend. Over the course of the 2013 season, I expect Thomas to get better and better. Whether he is good enough to impress, or calm the concerns of Hokie nation, on the first weekend of the regular season remains to be seen.
Mike Stancik, staff writer
It might be an unfair and overused correlation, but as the cliché saying goes: "the quarterback gets the most praise in victory, and the most blame in defeat." For the third-year starter, this is the opportunity to cement his legacy among the all-time great signal-callers in Virginia Tech history (and get the fan base back on his side).
The school's record-holder for total yards in a season is in the midst of a minor transformation, so to speak, thanks to the tutelage of Loeffler. The sky is the limit if Thomas is able to pick apart defenses in the new system as well as utilizing his unparalleled running abilities.
The question remains- does Thomas have the ability to pick apart defenses with his arm, and compliment that with picking up touchdowns and easy yardage with his legs? We've seen especially unspectacular results when the latter is forced to move the offense down the field. If I had to take a guess - and it comes as no surprise to those that have followed my Thomas analysis - it's that he cements his status as a first-round pick with a stellar year.
It's pretty simple. If Thomas rolls in 2013, so do the Hokies.