- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MOBILE, Ala. – At one point during a Sunday meeting with representatives of a team he refused to name, Logan Thomas was asked if he would consider playing a different position in the NFL – say, perhaps, tight end.

Thomas, Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback the past three seasons, wasn’t even willing to entertain such a thought.

“I just disregard it right off the top, really,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘I’d probably just tell you, ‘No, thank you. I’ll just take my chances elsewhere.’”

That the question surfaced is both an indictment of Thomas’ ability and a testament to his resilience. His inconsistency is part of the reason why Virginia Tech had only eight wins this season and did not finish ranked in the polls for the second consecutive year.

Thomas knows there are concerns about his ability to play the position, especially in the NFL. As he proceeds through a week of Senior Bowl practices leading up to Saturday’s collegiate all-star game, he also knows he alone can shape the way he’ll be perceived.

“This opportunity that I have here is huge for me,” Thomas said. “It says I can showcase [myself] against the best in the country.”

After considering leaving Virginia Tech for the NFL after his junior season, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Thomas decided to return, hoping another year in college would refine his fundamentals. His biggest leaps this past season, he said, were mental, which he said was in part because of his work with first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

When Loeffler began working with Thomas, one of his goals was to cut down on the quarterback’s interceptions. He threw 13 this season, roughly double the intended goal, but completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 2,907 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Still, his inconsistency followed. For every well-thrown pass, Thomas had a knack for sending another well over his intended receiver. Part of that was the inexperience of his teammates; another part stemmed from the decisions he made.

“I couldn’t tell that in three days,” said Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas, whose staff has been assigned to work with the North Team. “I couldn’t speak on his college experience, if you will. You just try to work consistency, timing and placement. That’s your emphasis. Those are your teaching points.”

Focusing more on the fundamentals has been Logan Thomas’ goal. He has been training in San Diego with noted quarterback coach George Whitfield, whose unconventional tactics have helped players such as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton prepare for the challenges of the professional game.

One drill, in which Whitfield rifles bean bags at his quarterbacks, has been of particular help to Thomas. The goal is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket by simulating a pass rush, but not so uncomfortable he’s rattled and has to scramble to make an off-schedule play.

“He’s tough,” said Kareem Martin, a defensive end who played against Thomas three times at North Carolina and is also on the North Team. “You can get off the edge free and it’s not a guaranteed sack. You know, I’ve seen him shrug off guys who are 280 pounds … [and] it’s tough because [he doesn’t] go down easy. It’s like tackling yourself.”

In recent years, teams have drafted quarterbacks to start immediately, which may not apply to Thomas. It’s early, but he’s currently projected as a third-day, mid-round pick, which would give him a chance to learn a system as a backup and adapt to the professional game.

“I honestly believe the perfect world, for him, would be to go to a guy who’s an established veteran at the end of his career, be able to watch how the NFL works and watch how the system works and, most importantly, watch how a veteran runs a team,” Loeffler said. “I really honestly believe that if he gets in a good NFL situation, he’s going to be able to learn and continue to change and continue to be able to develop, and he’s going to be a starter someday in the NFL.”

Whatever the demand, Thomas believes he’ll be ready. His ability to shift his weight to his left leg as he throws, and a consistency in the tempo of his drops, are things he hopes he’ll have cleared up in the coming months.

Representatives from all but four teams have met with Thomas since he arrived for the week of practice. When asked about his strengths, he’s quick to mention his leadership, his ability to learn and his clean past.

He also wants his determination to come through.

“I’m still pretty raw, but I still have that ability to go out there and dominate,” Thomas said. “We’re stoked to see what happens. I know I’ll be one of the best out there one day. I’ve just got to keep working on what I do.”

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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