Like last week, there were a lot of positives that came out of Chestnut Hill. The defensive line again delivered a ton of pressure on the quarterback. The secondary essentially took away the Eagle's downfield passing game. The offensive line delivered their best effort run blocking since the Duke game. Seniors Marcus Davis, Martin Scales, and Randall Dunn made huge plays.
At the same time, I came away with a sour taste in my mouth. Boston College has been poor running the football this season, yet dictated the pace of the game by running between the tackles against the Hokie 4-4 scheme. The linebackers were terrible taking on lead blocks by H-backs and got pinned inside on counter and zone plays, and the defensive tackles (especially J.R. Collins and Luther Maddy) played with poor pad level and looked like they were playing on roller skates on throughout the game. And perhaps most disturbing, Logan Thomas had his worst game since East Carolina last season.
My Hate Week began with a sense of apathy and frustration despite the victory, but the dam broke after I read the following from noted sportswriter, author, and (former) Tech faculty member Roland Lazenby.
Word inside the VT coaching staff is that quarterback school in Calif. royally screwed up Logan Thomas’ throwing mechanics.— Roland Lazenby (@lazenby) November 18, 2012
My mind flashed back to Frank Beamer throwing Danny Coale under the bus following the Sugar Bowl. This staff has had several ugly moments where it seems that their highest level of concern is with ensuring continued employment rather than making the football program better. This relatively benign tweet feels like a preemptive attempt by the coaches, through a leak of information, to create a narrative assigning blame at the feet of quarterback consultant George Whitfield. Whitfield worked with Thomas over spring break prior to spring practice, and in an interview with Washington Post writer Mark Giannatto, the QB guru said, "(Thomas) started basically playing quarterback as an upperclassman in high school and has basically been learning on the fly ever since."
This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of O'Cain, who benefits one of two ways through Lazenby's tweet. If O'Cain is fired, this creates a narrative that Logan's regression was because of Whitfield, and it gives O'Cain an excuse if he applies for another job (i.e. Beamer looking out for him). Or, it is a preemptive PR strike by Beamer because he wants to bring O'Cain and Stinespring back, and they need a fall guy (Whitfield). Either way, logic can dismiss the assertion of Whitfield "ruining Logan Thomas" as a pure fallacy.
Let's examine the facts. Logan worked out with Whitfield for a week prior to spring practice. If Whitfield did mess up his mechanics (which I guess I can understand why this staff thinks that is possible since they also thought that they could learn an entire offensive system in a single trip to Austin, Texas), O'Cain had spring ball, August camp, and fall practice to correct any problems. The regression is damning. It is more damning when you learn that Whitfield has trained numerous elite NFL quarterbacks along with Johnny Manziel. Given track records, I will assume that Whitfield did great work with Logan, and O'Cain's pseudo-system which has leaned heavily on Logan for running in between the tackles has damaged his mechanics and confidence. More damning is my eye test. Logan's delivery during warmups for the spring game was MUCH more compact than his delivery during fall scrimmages, and his motion has continued to elongate as the season has progressed.
For me, this leads back to Beamer. This information being public serves no purpose other than to deflect blame away from the staff, and Logan Thomas is collateral damage. I'm much less inclined to believe in Beamer's vision. So much pressure has been brought to bear that I would be stunned if O'Cain or Newsome is retained. Ultimately, the fallout only hurts Logan Thomas, because by creating this narrative suggests that he is beyond fixing. The kid's confidence has been battered, but he remains the Hokies best bet for another ACC title run next season.
Thomas Under the Spotlight
Thomas' poor throws, reads, and fixation on a single target instead of working through his progressions kept Boston College in the game. In the first half, I noted six throws into double coverage. On many of those plays, Thomas had other options wide open, but never came off his primary read, and Boston College used their zone to converge on the primary receiver. Quarterbacking 101 is reading the play correctly, working through your progression, and making an accurate throw. With the exception of the beautiful ball to Davis that lead to the game tying field goal, I don't know if Logan had another great throw.
Here's an early stick route by Randall Dunn.
Dunn plants his inside leg and drives out, but Thomas throws it well inside, wrong-footing Dunn. Not a promising start.
On the next drive, Corey Fuller makes a circus catch for the long gain. Fuller runs a Go route up the seam, but he is doubled and should not be the target.
Logan stares down Fuller the whole way, while the far right vertical route is more open.
Logan usually is very comfortable throwing screens, and O'Cain called plenty of them to get Logan dialed in.
Logan throws the cross-buck screen to Roberts, and leads him low and inside. We never saw anything that looked like this last year.
When Logan struggles, he locks in even more on his primary receiver. Roberts (who should not have been getting any snaps) runs a hesitation post.
Logan stares down Roberts the entire way, the safety undercuts the route, and drops an interception.
The issue certainly wasn't receivers getting open. Boston College ran a Bill Walsh College Football '95 umbrella zone, but holes were abound. Here, the Hokies run play action, with the tailback leaking out and the receiver running the out.
Boston College has two defensive backs bracketing the sideline receiver, and take a look at how open Tony Gregory is as a check down. Yikes! This should have been an interception. It happened again later too.
If you pause the video at 11:50, J.C. Coleman is sitting all by himself underneath the deep zone.
Instead, Logan throws to Randall Dunn on a wheel route, where the coverage is playing underneath Dunn with help inside and deep. Even if Thomas never finds Coleman, he can't attempt that throw.
Here was the sharp dig route by Davis on a critical third-and-goal.
Logan finally comes off of his initial read, but a little late. Davis was open on the sideline early and Boston College should have been able to recover. Luckily, they were Boston College. Davis made a great play to get upfield and give Thomas the chance to sneak it in.
Even the bomb to Davis, a throw Logan usually executes well, was behind him.
Davis had two steps on the corner, and had to break stride to come back and find the football.
I don't know what is wrong with Logan. Is he physically beat up? Does he lack faith in his receivers or o-line, and feel like he has to make all the big plays? I will do my best to come up with theories in the offseason, but my compass continues to point at True O'Cain. I do know that UVA would be one hell of a time for him to break out of his funk.