BLACKSBURG, Va. | No.
Never again would he stay quiet if he saw someone lollygagging. Never again would he take it easy in the weight room. Never again would he rely on someone else to organize offseason workouts.
Most of all, never again would he allow his name to be attached to a 7-6 team.
The 6-6, 254-pound senior is back in Blacksburg to restore a program’s tarnished image. He’s back because he, too, needs a little polish. Most of all, he is back because the honorable thing to do is finish what he started.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Thomas said this month. “It’s time to step up.”
Receiver D.J. Coles saw the change in Thomas’ demeanor during the very next weight-room session following the return announcement.
“He was more vocal,” Coles said. “He was more of a vocal leader on offense and defense, making sure that every player knows what their responsibilities are. He held everyone accountable. He was the leader of 7-on-7 and organized all of it. You could see it.”
Being vocal is good. Holding players accountable is good. Being organized is good. But if Thomas punches the clock with an empty toolbox, the bandwagon cannot be repaired. To that end, Hokies coach Frank Beamer performed his own overhaul, turning the offense over to former Michigan, Florida and Auburn assistant Scot Loeffler.
If Thomas was looking for a fiery role model, Loeffler was his Yoda. Emphatic and emotional, Loeffler poured himself into every film session, practice and drill with the same intensity that spurred the growth of past quarterback charges, such as Chad Henne and Tim Tebow.
“I wish to goodness I could coach him the rest of my career, to say the least,” Loeffler said. “I love being around him. He’s competitive. I think his leadership has really, really improved. He’s fun in the meeting rooms, he knows when it’s business.”
Upon his arrival, Loeffler installed an offense that emphasizes higher-percentage pass plays and placed a premium on limiting turnovers. It was an offense that demanded much-improved decision-making from Thomas and asked him to improvise less.
“It doesn’t mean he needs to go outside the box and be Superman,” Loeffler said. “The minute you try to be Superman is when you press and mistakes occur. He needs to do his job and that’s what we are focusing on.”