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In 2012, Thomas indeed found himself trying to do too much and accomplishing far too little. As a second-year starter, he had the knowledge to see where the team was breaking down. As a junior, he felt it wasn’t his place to usurp the leadership of the senior class.

While Thomas deferred, the Hokies declined. On Oct. 20, the Hokies suffered a 38-17 loss at Clemson that made a 10-win season doubtful. The following week, a 30-12 loss at Miami made it a reality.

A streak of eight consecutive 10-win seasons ended that night in South Florida. Then came a third consecutive defeat at Florida State and suddenly the best the Hokies could hope for was a seven-win season, which the program hadn’t experienced since 1997. In fact, it had been 20 years since a Beamer team lost as many as six games (2-8-1 in 1992).

Through it all, Thomas showed enough flashes for ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper to say he remained in the first-round discussion.

But being in the discussion wasn’t enough for Thomas. He wanted to lead the discussion. In the end, that made his return to Virginia Tech inevitable.

Even an average 2013 by Thomas’ standards would imprint his name atop most of Virginia Tech’s career quarterback charts. As much as he has toiled in the shadows of other luminary Hokies quarterbacks, Thomas already owns more passing yards (6,096) than the combined totals of Michael and Marcus Vick (5,941). He needs another 922 to surpass his predecessor Tyrod Taylor’s 7,017 and become the school’s all-time leader.

He already owns two of the three best single-season passing totals in school history and the best marks since Don Strock’s 3,243-yard campaign in 1972.

But average in 2013 will not be good enough. It won’t rocket him to the top of the NFL draft. It won’t guarantee Virginia Tech’s return to a 10-win season. It does not assure the Hokies of a spot in the ACC championship game.

“He didn’t want to leave with having an average season,” said Zack McCray, a junior tight end who also happens to be Thomas’ cousin. “Logan never wanted to be average. That makes him step it up in every aspect.”

During the ACC Kickoff in July, Thomas said as much. 

He reiterated his desire to lead and his goal of putting Virginia Tech back in the place where he found it. The task is not a simple one for a team that begins its season Saturday against two-time defending national champion Alabama. 

Thomas still does not know who his starting wide receivers will be. Two true freshmen reside atop the depth chart at left tackle. The situation at running back is sketchy.

Is Thomas the man for the job? Does he have enough tools to work with? Affable and easy-going at most times, those two questions scrubbed the smile from his face and hardened his gaze.

“Yes,” he said. “We can’t be 7-6 again. Never again.”