EL PASO — UCLA All-American linebacker Anthony Barr has a different idea of "fun."
This week that describes going up against Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound senior in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Tuesday. Asked whether he ever had to tackle someone so big, Barr said, "I don't think so, but it'll be fun."
The Bruins are hoping Barr has a rollicking good time.
Thomas is the key to the Hokies' offense, UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said, much in the same way that quarterback Brett Hundley makes the Bruins' offense tick. Thomas is a threat throwing and running, and has the size to deliver linebacker-like blows.
"We have to gang tackle him," Spanos said. "They do some quarterback reads and he can scramble out of the pocket. We don't need one guy tackling him, we need many guys tackling him."
Thomas has thrown for 2,861 yards and 16 touchdowns and has 295 yards rushing. He will be operating without running back Trey Edmunds, who had team highs with 675 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.
The loss of Edmunds, who is sidelined because of a broken leg, puts more on Thomas, who has had consistency issues.
There have been ups. He completed 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards against Miami. He threw three touchdown passes against North Carolina.
And there have been downs. He was five for 26 against Alabama. He had four passes intercepted against Duke.
"This guy is big and mobile," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "We have to have good eyes and we can't cheat in our zones."
Virginia Tech will be without cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had surgery for a core muscle injury. Cornerback Antone Exum is doubtful because of an ankle injury.
That leaves freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson as starters. They aren't the type you can pick on. Fuller has a team-high six interceptions.
They benefit from what the Hokies have up front.
"A lot of what they're able to do in the secondary is a product of their pass rush," Mora said. "Those guys play hard, they're reckless and they create problems for you."
Virginia Tech's defense ranks fifth nationally in sacks, averaging 3.1 per game. The Hokies are also third in passing yards given up and passing efficiency defense.
To understand Texas high school football, you have to play Texas high school football, UCLA center Jake Brendel said.
Brendel is back in his home state for the Sun Bowl, though he'll be playing nearly 700 miles from Plano East High, his alma mater.
"If you play football in Texas, you play football," Brendel said. "We have padded spring ball practices. We have gym periods that aren't gym periods, they are football practices. You are exposed to football seven hours a day with all the film study and optional stuff."
"Optional in quotations," Brendel said. "It's just a different sport with all the intensity and meticulousness."
As an example, Brendel cited the Bruins' 24-hour rule, where players have to forget about a loss after a day.
"It's a 90-hour rule in Texas," Brendel said.
Twitter: @cfosterlatimesCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times