Don’t be fooled by the 35-10 final score. Alabama is fortunate that Virginia Tech is in complete disarray. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line has been the foundation of their success under Saban. In A.J. McCarron’s first game behind a revamped line that replaced two first round picks and an All-American center, the offense found themselves stuck in the mud as the pocket often turned into a suffocating sinkhole.
Until McCarron found receiver Christion Jones in the end zone, he was just 9-of-20 for 72 yards, faced constant pressure from Virginia Tech’s front seven and looked nothing like the player who was receiving preseason Heisman consideration.
Amari Cooper scribbled his name all over Alabama’s freshman receiving records last season, but Jones etched his name into the national consciousness by squirming through the holes in Tech’s special teams by also taking a punt return and kickoff return back to the house.
Logan Thomas had to be jealous of McCarron’s embarrassment of riches. One year ago, Virginia Tech quarterback Thomas was a physical specimen whom scouts projected as a Cam Newton carbon copy. After watching him get engulfed by the Crimson Tide defense, NFL scouts are probably burning their Logan Thomas tapes and files.
It’s bad enough that the Hokies offensive talent is more suspect than Oscar Pistorius. The comparisons between Thomas and Newton are as accurate as Thomas’ throws on Saturday night.
Maybe judging Thomas Simon Cowell-style is harsh after he went through the Alabama spin cycle, but Thomas has regressed since his breakthrough sophomore season and the season opener was emblematic of his backslide.
The Crimson Tide defense is still cannibalistic. Logan Thomas threw for just 59 yards and posted a 19% completion percentage. Alabama's secondary can stick any receiving corps in the nation, but this was a combination of elite coverage from Nick Saban's favorite unit and shoddy display of quarterback play.
On the few occasions when Virginia Tech’s receivers were able to create separation, Thomas couldn’t connect. His most egregious misfire was an overthrow of a wide open Demitri Knowles as he streaked down the field on a fly route. Had Thomas dropped it in Knowles’ vicinity, the entire complexion of the first half would have changed.
Every miscue in the passing game wasn’t on Thomas. Just when it seemed Virginia Tech had momentum on its side, Vinnie Sunseri plucked one of Thomas’ passes out of the air and returned it for an end zone gift exchange of seven points. The pass was on target, however, receiver D.J. Coles appeared to give up on the play and the Crimson Tide never let up after taking a 21-7 lead.
Logan’s draft stock and the Hokies can only go uphill from here. Alabama can only hope the same is true for their season. It’s become apparent that McCarron is dependent on his protection keeping the pocket clean for the Crimson Tide offense to matriculate the ball down the field. In two weeks against Texas A&M, they'll need more than 206 yards of offense to keep up their frontrunner status.