There were pretty big shoes to fill for Thomas as he replaced Tyrod Taylor as the Hokies' starting quarterback. Taylor racked up a lot of wins in his career for Virginia Tech, but Thomas took college football by storm with a fabulous debut season in 2011. He set the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback as he ran for 627 yards and 11 scores. The redshirt sophomore completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Thomas set a school record of 3,482 yards of total offense while leading Virginia Tech to an 11-3 record last year. He was a Second-Team All-ACC selection and improved throughout the season. Thomas' best game came against Miami, but he struggled in two games versus Clemson.
2012 Season Outlook:
Thomas should be even better in 2012. He has a year of experience that should help him to understand college defenses better. The big hurdle will be that Thomas lost a lot of his supporting cast this offseason. Running back David Wilson, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin and wide receiver Danny Coale all moved on to the NFL.
The Hokies typically reload quickly, so Thomas should still have enough around him to produce a good season. A three-game stretch of Clemson, Miami and Florida State will provide a nice test for him in the second half of the season.
Thomas is the latest in line of massive, athletic quarterbacks who can burn defenses with their arm or their legs. His skill set and playing style fits in with Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. Thomas has a cannon for an arm. The massive signal caller can throw the ball to all parts of the field and has the power to drive the ball outside the numbers and to the deep part of the field.
When plays breakdown, Thomas is a nightmare running with the ball. He has the quickness to dart upfield and the power to run through tackles. Defenders often look hesitant to try and tackle him in the open field. Thomas runs over those defenders on many carries and finishes his runs by falling forward to pick up extra yards. His legs make him a tremendous red-zone weapon.
Thomas is extremely hard to bring down in the pocket as well. He will definitely bring playmaking ability as a runner to the NFL.
There are a few areas that Thomas could stand to improve. The first is his pocket passing; Thomas must get more accurate. He has a nice ability to throw a touch passes, but his feet have to improve. If Thomas gets his feet more fundamental, that will pay off with more accurate passes. Often times, his throws come in a little low; that helps to reduce interception opportunities, but also leads to incompletions.
Thomas has nice throwing mechanics with an over-the-top delivery, and he occasionally throws beautiful passes in tight windows. However, he isn't as consistent with his accuracy as he needs to be for the NFL.
Thomas' second priority has to be getting better at reading defenses. In particular, he needs to get faster at working through his progressions. This limited-field vision caused him to miss some open receivers and/or give the defense time to cover up receivers before he threw the ball. Too often, Thomas would look to run when his primary receiver was covered. The Hokies quarterback needs to get faster mentally, but also be more patient.
Decision making is the third thing Thomas has to improve on. He sometimes does silly things with the football to avoid a loss on the play. The signal-caller needs to become more ball secure in the pocket to help avoid the dumb moves.
There is no doubt that Thomas has the athletic ability to be a starter in the NFL. He has a powerful arm, great size, mobility and toughness. Thomas is just raw and needs a lot of development.
2013 Draft Expectations:
Thomas has the elite skill set to be a candidate as a future No. 1 overall pick. The only thing standing in the way of that is his pocket passing and accuracy. If Thomas develops those skills over the next year or two, he should be a high first-round pick.