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Leal next man up for Virginia Tech?

1/1/2014

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has been everybody's favorite punching bag over the last two seasons as both he and the Hokies have struggled to find any consistency on offense.

But Virginia Tech fans got a glimpse into the future during the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Tuesday, when Thomas was knocked out of the game and heir apparent Mark Leal came on in relief. And, well, Thomas might end up humming the popular tune, "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone ..."

Leal did not do much to engender confidence heading into 2014, a critical season for the Hokies and coach Frank Beamer. What has happened the last two seasons cannot continue when the standard has been 10-plus wins for so many years. Now, it is always tough for a backup to go into a game cold, so we should keep that in mind, but even Beamer told local reporters after the game, "I'm disappointed that Mark didn't play better. You've got to be ready to step up."

He did not look ready. Leal finished 12-of-25 for 130 yards and two fourth-quarter interceptions -- including one returned for a score. He ended with a quarterback rating of 4.0. Beamer announced after the game that Leal will start spring practice as the next in line at quarterback. The Hokies do have early enrollee freshman Andrew Ford coming in for spring, along with redshirt freshman Brenden Motley and another incoming freshman, Chris Durkin.

The issues plaguing this offense go far beyond quarterback, though. No matter what you feel about Thomas, seeing him absorb such a crushing hit and finish his career on the sideline is not the way he deserved to go out. He led this team to a BCS game in 2011, then faltered as the talent around him faltered. Thomas never quite rose up to the standard many placed on him in the last two seasons of his career, but he did not have nearly enough help, either.

Leal inherits the same type of talent deficiency at the skill positions. The offensive line remains a work in progress. It would be unfair to completely write off Leal after this performance, but he might not make people forget about Thomas, either.