The past two years have been an offensive disaster for Virginia Tech, and now the Hokies will start 2014 looking for a new quarterback. That means all eyes will be on the players hoping to replace Logan Thomas, with one name already at the top of the list.
Spotlight: QB Mark Leal, 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, rising redshirt senior
2013 summary: Leal saw action in just two games, a blowout win against Western Carolina (3-of-4 passing for 25 yards) and a blowout loss to UCLA in the Sun Bowl (12-of-25 for 130 yards and two interceptions). His 25 passing attempts against UCLA were more than his previous career total.
The skinny: The last time Virginia Tech began a season completely unsure of its starting quarterback was 2008, when Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon vied for the job. But after five seasons of relative consistency at the position -- if not necessarily significant success -- the starting job is a bit more of a mystery this spring, but Leal has a chance to answer those questions early.
Frank Beamer already tabbed Leal as the frontrunner in the race to replace Thomas, and his competition -- rising redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley and incoming freshmen Chris Durkin and Andrew Ford -- have zero passing attempts between them at the college level. Still, Leal’s only significant work came in relief of an injured Thomas in the Sun Bowl last year, and it didn’t go well. Leal entered a tie game in the second quarter, but the Tech offense mustered just a field goal the rest of the way and UCLA won 42-12. Still, Beamer seems to have confidence in Leal, and he’ll get a far more fair evaluation this spring.
And while replacing Thomas won’t be an easy task, it’s worth considering that Tech’s offense wasn’t exactly high-powered the past two years. The Hokies have averaged just 5.1 yards per play since the start of 2012 (104th nationally), and Thomas’ 29 interceptions over that period were the second-most by any QB in the country. Perhaps the biggest question then for Leal isn’t so much whether he’ll be ready for the job, but whether the rest of his offense will be able to provide significantly more support than it gave Thomas in 2013.