BLACKSBURG, Va. — In recent weeks, Virginia Tech senior quarterback Logan Thomas has often told his younger teammates what they will see when the Hokies take on two-time defending national champion Alabama at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night.
“I’ve been trying to give them an idea of what to expect, just because nobody has ever seen how Alabama prepares and how they come out and the type of team they are and how disciplined they are,” said Thomas, one of only two players left on the team who was there in 2009 to play against Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
Virginia Tech went into that game ranked No. 7 and Alabama was No. 5. All things considered, the Hokies did fairly well. Alabama was trailing before scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 34-24 victory. Thomas and senior wide reciver D.J. Coles are the only players on the current team who took part in that game.
Going into this game, Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation and Virginia Tech is not in the top 25.
“You just try to talk to them and let them know what to expect because it can be a shell-shock, especially with how young we are on offense,” Thomas said.
As for himself, Thomas is brimming with confidence.
“I can’t put words in y’all’s mouths or whatever, but I think y’all are going to see a different team than y’all are used to seeing here at Virginia Tech,” he said. “I think y’all are going to be writing about the chance of us having a superior season.”
The Hokies’ projected starting lineup for Saturday’s game includes two true freshmen and one redshirt freshman on offense and one true freshman on defense.
It could quickly get intimidating going against a team that Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says is “the best we’ve ever played.”
A lot of his offensive teammates are young, but Thomas said he believes they are ready for the challenge of facing off against the Crimson Tide.
“I don’t see anything timid about these guys,” Thomas said. “I think these guys are just excited and ready to play.”
Virginia Tech is considered a sizable underdog to Alabama, which is something the Hokies’ proud program doesn’t encounter very often. Not many people are giving Tech a chance, which only fuels their motivation to play well.
Hokies starting guard Andrew Miller, who used to wrestle at Tech for coach Kevin Dresser, said Dresser used to tell his grapplers to “Never take a back seat to anybody.”
“That’s something I never do,” Miller said. “That’s embedded in my heart. I’m never gonna take a back seat. I’m gonna play Alabama like I play the next team.”
Alabama and Virginia Tech have split the last two meetings, but the Crimson Tide holds an 11-1 lead in the series. Their 2009 meeting was in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. The Hokies’ only win came in the 1998 Music City Bowl in Nashville.
Player to watch:
• QB Logan Thomas — Virginia Tech is now his team. That’s what he says, and his coaches concur. He worked all offseason to improve his game and become a better leader, and the early returns are good. At 6-6 and 250 pounds, he has a vast array of physical tools to be a great player. He has shown flashes but never put everything together. As a senior, and as a player who has put a lot of work and effort into getting better, this could be the year.
—WR D.J. Coles — He was one of the Hokies’ most reliable receivers two years ago before suffering a knee injury that shut him down for almost the entire 2012 season. He is back and ready to contribute again this season, though he battled through some soreness in his knee this training camp. If he can get back to where he was two years ago, the Hokies can have a lot more confidence in their passing game.
—DE James Gayle — A pass rushing terror, Gayle decided to pass up the NFL to come back for his senior season. Some nagging injuries have limited him at times the last couple of seasons. His goal is to stay healthy and lead Virginia Tech’s defense back to elite status.
—CB Kyle Fuller — A lot of the attention this preseason has been centered on freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller, who is expected to start his first career game against top-ranked Alabama on Saturday, but lost in the shuffle is senior Kyle Fuller, Kendall’s older brother and one of the best returning defensive backs in the ACC. Kyle Fuller has played a lot of different roles in Tech’s defense, and this year he will be looked upon to shut down the opposing team’s best receiving threats.
—Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.