BLACKSBURG, Va. — Logan Thomas didn't live up to expectations during his junior season Virginia Tech's football team, but that hasn't squelched chatter that the Hokies' quarterback might leave school early for the NFL.
Thomas has said he plans to return for his senior season, though he filed paperwork with the NFL's draft advisory board to gauge where he might be picked.
"I think it'd still be up in the air for me simply because I love the university, I love the people here, all my friends are still here," Thomas said Thursday as the Hokies began preparations to play Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl. "I think I have some work to do. There's a lot of things that will go into the decision for me, but as of right now, I'm still doing what I've said the entire year."
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said this week that the 6-foot-6 Thomas could still be a first-round selection.
"He's more talented than any quarterback that will be in this draft," Kiper said during a teleconference this week. "You name any quarterback, I don't care who it is, he's more talented."
Thomas completed 205 of 390 passes for 2,783 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, and rushed for a team-high 528 yards and nine scores. But he threw 14 interceptions and his completion percentage of 52.6 was lower than last season. Tech went 6-6.
"There's still a lot of work to do. There's no doubt about it," Thomas said. "Consistency is a big thing for me. I wasn't consistent throughout the year and that's where, when you go to the next level, you've got to be consistent at all times, and experience will be a lot as well. More time to be able to play some more games isn't always a bad thing. I don't think I could go in and start an NFL game right now and be fine and come out with a win, so I think I have some work to be done, but that comes with practice."
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he'd talk individually with all his players who were considering leaving early. Thomas seems to be the most likely potential candidate to skip his senior season.
"I think he's definitely an NFL quarterback," Beamer said. "I think, again, you see where your status is with the NFL people and then make the best decision for yourself. But I think what he's got, I definitely think he's an NFL quarterback. And not just his physical skills, but how he is as a person and how his leadership is and how he is as a teammate and all those other things, too."
Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring acknowledged it would be hard to advise Thomas to return to the Hokies with a chance to be a first-round selection.
"When you're a first-round draft pick in that league, that's a pretty good deal," Stinespring said. "I think when you look at the future of what a first-round draft pick means, security, it brings that part to your life. And there are some other elements that come into your life. I think that's pretty difficult to encourage a guy not to take that opportunity."
Thomas, who is set to graduate this semester with a degree in human development, isn't alone. Defensive end James Gayle and cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, all juniors, have decisions to make.
All three are believed to be leaning toward returning.
"If they explore it, they explore it," Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "I'd like to see everybody back."
Exum said Thursday he has filed his papers with the advisory board but is planning to come back.
"I'm coming back, as of now," Exum said. "I'm thinking of the bowl game and stuff like that. I worry about that type of stuff afterward. But I'm coming back."