By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Every quarterback need a go-to guy.
For Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas against the vaunted Alabama defense, it could be Ryan Malleck.
Bring it on.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said.
The 6-foot-4, 249-pound Malleck will serve as Virginia Tech’s tight end on Saturday when the Hokies face the top-ranked Crimson Tide in Atlanta.
Few are giving Virginia Tech a chance. That doesn’t include the Hokies.
“It is exciting,” Malleck said. “It is a great opportunity and I am looking forward to it.”
A product of Point Pleasant, N.J., Malleck spent the offseason in Blacksburg working with Thomas and the rest of the offense in pursuit of improvement prior to his junior campaign.
“I can’t wait, I have been working a lot this summer and it has been going well in camp so far,” said Malleck, whose Hokies lost their top three receivers from last season. “I started a few games last year so I have a full year of experience.”
He used that season to catch 17 receptions for 174 yards for Virginia Tech, which was second to Demitri Knowles’ 19 catches among the returnees for the Hokies.
Not bad considering Malleck arrived at Virginia Tech in 2011 as a wide receiver. He played in all 14 games as a freshman, but mostly on special teams. He made the transition to tight end, and was able to become the Hokies’ fifth leading receiver last season.
“I think running better routes,” said Malleck, about his ability to get the ball. “Sticking to my routes, getting open more and more.”
Malleck has always had good hands to catch the ball, but has had to work on his skills as a blocker. He has put lots of time into learning the role, working as a freshman with Chris Drager to pick up pointers on the field.
“It is very fun. When I came here my freshman year Chris Drager was here, and I learned a lot from him,” Malleck said. “Especially from blocking because I was as receiver in high school so I learned a lot from him about blocking. That definitely helped out.”
Virginia Tech saw its eight-year run of 10-win seasons come to an end in a season where little went right until the final three games for the Hokies.
“Our offense would play well one game and our special teams might not have done so well or defense didn’t play so well, or the defense played well and the offense didn’t play well,” Malleck said. “We just couldn’t put it all together out there.”
The memories of that 7-6 mark has driven the Hokies, led by Thomas, who has worked to be better, and Malleck thinks it has worked for the entire team.
“This summer we worked hard and I have seen more improvement every day so (Logan) is looking good,” Malleck said. “It definitely fueled us all summer, It made us want to turn it around.”
As for what lies ahead for Virginia Tech, Malleck simply wants the Hokies to get better, with goals to meet as the season moves on.
“The goal is to get better, and get back to the ACC championship,” said Malleck, who will lead a tight end group that also includes Zack McCray, Duan Perez-Means and Darrius Redman. “As for the tight end group, we just have to keep getting better and better.”
Virginia Tech did show the ability to fight when down late last season, winning its final three games by a combined 13 points, two of which were won in overtime. That enabled the Hokies to keep alive its run of 20 straight bowl games.
That same attitude will be needed on Saturday as the Hokies face the Crimson Tide.
“We didn’t quit,” Malleck said. “We are always going to fight.”
—Contact Brian Woodson