2013 Sun Bowl Prospect Preview: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech

The Sun Bowl will be the final game of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas’ enigmatic college football career. (Photo: Ed Wolfstein — USA Today Sports)

BBD Contributor: Ryan Glaze

New Years Eve’s Sun Bowl (2 p.m., CBS) pits two major college programs seemingly headed in diverging directions. Frank Beamer’s once dominant Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4) have fallen on hard times and are mired in mediocrity in the middling ACC. Conversely, in his two seasons at UCLA, Jim Mora has brought the Bruins, formerly a Pac-10 doormat, back to relevance with a 9-3 record this season.

With a young roster loaded with talent, the future looks bright for UCLA. While scouts are likely to flock to El Paso to see star UCLA prospects Anthony Barr and Brett Hundley, a number of other talents will be showcased as well.

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech, Sr. (6’6″, 257 lbs)

“A Tale of Two QBs” should be the title of Logan Thomas’ NFL scouting report. Thomas’ career has been a frustrating story of the best of times and the worst of times.

Blessed with a tremendous frame, excellent athleticism, enormous hands and one of the stronger arms to ever grace college football, Thomas looks every bit the part of a No. 1 overall draft pick. There are moments on the field too, where he looks like a potential franchise quarterback. Whether needling a perfectly thrown bullet into tight coverage or dropping a deep ball into the perfect spot with immaculate touch, Thomas’ can do a lot of things with a football that leave you saying “wow”.

Thomas can wow with his feet as well, having rushed for more than 1300 yards and 24 touchdowns in his college career. His combination of arm strength, size and athleticism brings to mind a Cam Newton/Ben Roethlisberger/Josh Freeman hybrid.

He has also had more than his share of maddeningly frustrating moments. Because he’s only played the position for a handful of years, Thomas is still very much a work in progress and struggles with consistent footwork, mechanics, reading defenses and feeling pressure in the pocket. Many of his bewildering plays involve poor decision-making when avoiding the pass-rush—his offensive line hasn’t done him many favors in the past two seasons—or bafflingly poor accuracy, made even worse when juxtaposed next to any of his aforementioned jaw-dropping passes.

Many will see Thomas’ frame, athleticism and struggles at the quarterback position and suggest he reconvert back to his high school position of tight end. Similar to how many felt about Tim Tebow, a position change might ultimately be Logan Thomas’ destination. Unlike Tebow, however, Thomas’ arm talent and overall potential should not be ignored. With quarterback talent in such short supply in the NFL, it’s very likely that Thomas will get a shot as a mid-to-late round pick. He will be a developmental project as a quarterback, but if he can work out his flaws, Thomas’ potential is off the charts.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech, Sr. (6’, 189 lbs)

Kyle Fuller is the next in the long line of talented Virginia Tech defensive backs. Despite missing several games this season with a groin injury, Fuller was still a semifinalist for both the Bednarik and Thorpe awards as well a first-team All-ACC and a second-team All American selection.

While Fuller is not an elite athlete or a speed merchant, he has a solid jam at the line, terrific length, smooth hips and tremendous ball skills which make him a fairly safe draft prospect. Fuller is a strong run defender, a disciplined tackler who has been effective in Virginia Tech’s blitzing schemes.

Kyle Fuller is expected to come back from an injury for his final college football game. (Photo: Paul Frederiksen — USA Today Sports)

Fuller’s aggression and instincts were on full display in his 2013 breakout game against Alabama. Competing against the nation’s best, he compiled four tackles, two pass breakups and an interception.

At times, Fuller’s aggression can get the best of him as he has been caught jumping routes on double moves. This is also where his lack of top-end speed impacts him as he can struggle to make up ground when he is beat.

Fuller projects as a second- or third- round pick, and with his lack of speed, he might not be a fit in all defensive schemes and some might view him as a safety more than as a cornerback.

Fuller missed four of Virginia Tech’s last five games with a core muscle injury, but Beamer said Monday he expects Fuller to play in the Sun Bowl, according to Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. If he is able to play, look for Fuller to disrupt all phases of UCLA’s offense.

Keep an Eye On: Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech, Jr. (6’1”, 295 lbs)

Though smaller than a prototypical defensive tackle, Luther Maddy has been a disruptive force for the Hokies this season. At his size, Maddy is best suited to play as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, but with his burst, quickness and ability to get off blocks, he might be a mid-round steal.

Though he has yet to decide whether or not to go pro, Maddy has requested grading from the NFL Draft Advisory Board and has put together two solid seasons showcasing his skills. If he were to declare, he likely wouldn’t be drafted until day three, but the best way for him to address his biggest weakness–his size–would be to work with professional trainers. A Sun Bowl where he might be able to spend some quality time in UCLA’s backfield could boost his stock if he is to declare.

See page 2 for a look at UCLA’s top prospects in this game.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Anthony Barr, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, Brett Hundley, Game Previews, Kendall Fuller, Kyle Fuller, Logan Thomas, Luther Maddy, Prospect Previews, Shaquelle Evans, Sun Bowl, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Xavier Su'a-Filo

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