Alabama knows all about the Logan Thomas the Crimson Tide can see on game film.
They have watched the 6-foot-6, 254-pound Virginia Tech quarterback throw breathtaking deep balls and run over linebackers. Alabama also has seen Thomas overthrow open receivers, turnovers that lead to points.
Thomas hopes to show them a more refined version of his skills on Saturday in Atlanta.
The senior spent the spring getting intensive coaching on mechanics from new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Thomas spent the summer leading more workouts with his teammates than he ever has, all with a goal of avoiding a repeat of last season's 7-6 struggle.
His final season starts with what he said is the biggest game of his career.
"I would say it is, just because it's the start of my final season and we're playing against the back-to-back champions," Thomas said this week. "We're playing against the No. 1 team in the country. It's my first time doing that. Obviously they're the team to beat. They're the team everybody knows about in the country. We've just got to go and represent and just have to play well and smart and physical and if we don't have a lot of mental mistakes we'll be just fine. I'm just excited to take the field."
The Hokies have played the No. 1 team seven times in their history, and have lost all seven.
Thomas' passing numbers in scrimmages have not reflected the improvements he and Loeffler say he's made — he threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns, in the much anticipated spring game, and was 5-for-15 with two interceptions in another scrimmage during preseason camp. But Thomas knows the Hokies will need him to make every throw to have a chance against the Tide.
Alabama is preparing like it expects to see Thomas' best. Or Cam Newton.
"He can run the ball and throw the ball," linebacker C.J. Mosely said of Thomas, comparing him to the former Auburn quarterback who led the Tigers to the national championship in 2010. "They have run-pass plays with the quarterback that he can either keep the ball and run it or he can pass it. ... He's just a big, bruising quarterback. Once he gets going, it'll be hard to stop him."
Coach Frank Beamer expects Thomas to be fine, but worries more about how many of the weapons around him, mostly unproven, will be equal to the task of performing on such a big stage.
"I don't worry about Logan. I'll be honest with you," Beamer said. "He's got things under control and he's intelligent on the field, he's calm on the field, he's in control on the field. I think he's probably learned from last year: take care of the football. I think it's probably the people around Logan that are the real issue right here and how they play. And how we protect. And how we run the football. And how we catch the football. I think those are the real issues right there."
Tailback J.C. Coleman's status is questionable because of two sprained ankles, which would leave redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds as the featured back in his first college game, and Coleman also is the team's leading returning pass-catcher with 21. If he can't play, sophomore wide receiver Demetri Knowles (19 catches) and junior tight end Ryan Malleck (17 catches) will be Thomas' most familiar returning targets.
That youth is why the Hokies worked so hard in the offseason.
"I think these guys have gotten a lot better," Thomas said. "... They're doing things the way things need to be done, paying attention to the small details, and that's what's going to make us great."
That, and Thomas making the throws necessary to cash in on opportunities.
"We've got to complete passes when they're there, not have any drops and no mental mistakes," Thomas said, "and if we do that, we'll be in the game the entire time and give ourselves a great shot to win it."
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., contributed to this report.
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