2014 Season: Offensive Prediction
Thomas is by far the smallest quarterback we’ve had, but he is also clearly the quickest. The jury is still out on his passing abilities, but based on what we’ve seen he appears to be at least competent through the air.
I think it is safe to say that Thomas will be more dynamic on the ground than Washington and Lee were. I expect to see a marked focus placed on getting Thomas the ball in space, be it by loading one side of the field or having dual A-back lead blockers (similar to the 2009 ACCCG clip above). When Byerly gets in the game, we may see more of a ground-and-pound look, and maybe even some midline similar to the Nesbitt era.
Having Zach Laskey as our starting B-back is a very curious situation to me, as there is not really any precedent to having a tall, lean B-back as our starter. Historically we have used Laskey similar to Sims and Allen as a glorified bruiser for tough yardage up the middle. While faster than Allen and Sims, Laskey doesn’t quite have the speed to take pitches on the outside like Dwyer did, so I don’t think we will see much of that. In 2012, however, he did catch a touchdown from Tevin Washington on the first play of the Virginia game, and even returned punts early in the year. Could we see more passes to Laskey this year?
I don’t expect too many changes from the A-back position. If Thomas’s passing skills pan out, I think short passes to the A-backs similar to what we saw from Tevin Washington in 2011-2012 are not unreasonable. If anything, I expect blocking for Thomas to be among their top priorities. We are loaded with experience here with five seniors -- Deon Hill, Tony Zenon, Synjyn Days, Charles Perkins, and B.J. Bostic.
The receiving corps is similarly experienced and all the more potent for it. Having DeAndre Smelter, Darren Waller, Michael Summers, and Anthony Autry all healthy this season means Thomas will have no shortage of targets to throw to. We haven’t seen much of the long ball from Thomas yet, but his arm has looked strong and his passes have had some zip. Plus, Smelter and Waller have both shown their ability to make plays on poorly thrown balls if worse comes to worst.
I think the most likely outcome is Thomas running a lot of plays from the gun. That will give him space to allow blocks to develop in front of him to clear away lanes, and keeping him further from the heavies on the defensive line might not be a bad idea either, taking into account his small size. Until he proves himself as a passer, I think we will see a similar run-pass ratio as we did in 2008 when Nesbitt was a new starter in the new offense. I expect a lot of base triple option plays from under center too. With his natural playmaking ability, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to draw up an overly-complicated playbook.
What do you expect to see on offense from this year's offensive unit?