Thomas graduated this December from Virginia Tech. He’s excited about what he accomplished. He has a degree in Human Development. Most of his family came up for his graduation. It was a fun graduation. He was sitting between two of his good friends: Andrew Rash of the baseball team, and Corey Fuller. He’s glad they were all able to share the experience together.
Thomas and the receivers went out and played whenever they could during the down time so they didn’t lose their timing. That helped them get back into the normal routine when practice resumed.
Thomas feels like he’s gotten better at some little things this year that most people wouldn’t realize. He can recognize more things and do more things than he could do a year ago. Obviously his stats didn’t show it, but he feels like he got better.
The supporting cast was a lot different this year, but that’s part of the game. You have to adjust. It was definitely tough losing the Big Three from last season, but you can’t harp on that.
Thomas has been on both sides of the fence. He’s led a team to the Sugar Bowl, and he’s also gone 6-6. You get more blame than you should when you lose, and you get more praise than you should when you win. That’s the way it is, and it’s not going to change.
Tech fought all year, and there was no panic when they were 4-6. They all knew they could win those last two games. You can either quit, or you can step up. It took a lot of heart to drive down the field and score that late field goal against BC. The UVA game was very physical. The UVA defense was very tough.
When Thomas grew up, he wasn’t a football guy until he was about 10 or 11. Before that, he liked the NBA. It was Zack McCray who got Thomas into football. Somewhere around his junior year of high school, he figured out that football was his future. 6-6 is very tall in football, but it’s short for a post player in basketball.
Thomas made a great decision to attend Virginia Tech. It’s really a family atmosphere. He enjoys being around the people in Blacksburg.
Thomas thinks whichever offense makes the least amount of mistakes and sustains the most drives will have the advantage, and that team will probably win the game. It’s supposed to be a defensive game, and Thomas hopes it doesn’t go that way for the Tech offense.
Rutgers doesn’t have a very big defensive line, but they run very well. They don’t let offensive linemen get their hands on them. They put an extra safety in the box. The Hokies will have to run effectively on the edge and throw the ball.
Getting off to a slow start is what concerns Thomas the most about the bowl game. He’s watched a lot of other bowl games this year, and you’ll always see one of the teams get off to a slow start and they have to battle back. He wants Tech to get off to a fast start.
Bowl week has been good. It’s always been exciting to play in a bowl. Tyler feels like this has been one of their best weeks of practice this year, and they are going to give everybody a good show on Friday. There is no school, everybody is on the same page, so the bowl practices go more smoothly.
It was a big deal for Tyler to be named 1st Team All-ACC by the coaches. It feels good that the coaches around the ACC think that highly of him.
Tyler is very good friends with Cody Grimm. They have always been similar in so many aspects of their life. They were very close growing up. It’s a neat story.
Tyler figured out that he was a very instinctive linebacker in high school. In his youth league, he played defensive end and guard. At linebacker, you really have to have instincts. In Tech’s defense, a lot of things are funneled to the middle linebacker.
On Wednesday morning, the team got to hang out with some kids in Orlando who are having tough times. It puts things in perspective. Being able to see them put a smile on their face, even though their lives aren’t going all that well, was special. Of all the things he’s ever done on a bowl trip, Wednesday morning’s event was the most fun for Tyler. He felt like the team got closer as a result. Coach Beamer runs the right type of program. He stresses kindness and being good to other people.
Rutgers is talented. They have tall, fast receivers. They have a big offensive line with a quick running back. They don’t do anything that Tech hasn’t seen this season. The running back is good. He runs behind his pads, he’s quick, and you have to get multiple guys around him to tackle him.
Rutgers lost to Kent State, and that’s one of those games where their quarterback was just a little bit off. When he started turning the ball over, their offense struggled. Getting turnovers will be key on Friday.
Getting back into the flow of a game is the thing that concerns Tyler the most going into this one. You can only simulate game speed so much in practice.
The defense got better as the year went on. They were playing good football at the end of the season. Everyone is tight right now, and they have good camaraderie.
Tyler thinks that if the team had some better leadership early in the season, things would have turned out differently. They had some leaders step up in the middle of the season, such as Bruce Taylor. He became a vocal leader in the middle of the season.
Exum, Tariq Edwards and Marcus Davis went to Best Buy to use their bowl gift cards earlier in the week, and he ended up giving his card to several kids from the Bahamas. Edwards and Davis helped out too. It was the right thing to do. Exum had a lot of good Christmases growing up because of his parents. He decided that he didn’t “need” anything in Best Buy. It was all “wants”. So he decided to help a few kids have a good Christmas.
Exum became a social media star after the Best Buy experience. Word got out on Twitter, and it went viral. The kids’ mom seemed pretty happy. Exum joked that it probably saved her a little bit of money this Christmas.
Rutgers is a very good team. They have a stigma from not being good in the past, but they are different now. They are big, physical, and they play with a very high IQ. They are fast and aggressive. It will be a big challenge for Tech.
Gary Nova is good at getting rid of the football, and the offensive line is very good in pass protection. Rutgers only allowed eight sacks the entire season.
Tech has to shut down the run first and foremost. Jawon Jamison is one of the best runners Exum has seen this year. He is shifty, he can put his foot in the ground and make guys miss. Tech has to stop him.
Other teams targeted Exum this year. Tech played a lot of man coverage this year, so the smart thing to do was take shots down the field. It was exciting being targeted, because there was a lot of action coming his way.
Rutgers has really big wide receivers. They are not only big, but they seem to run well on film. They are long striders. It will definitely be a challenge.