Mark Leal waited four years for his chance to be the starting quarterback for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Now, he may never get that chance.
Excited and humbled to announce that I will be attending Virginia Tech #Hokies— Michael Brewer (@MBrewer16) March 2, 2014
Thanks to an NCAA rule that allows players who complete their undergraduate degree to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year, Brewer will be eligible to play this fall. He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.
What does this mean for Leal? More specifically, what does this mean for the Hokies in 2014?
Before Tech fans get too excited, Brewer doesn't come to Blacksburg with Russell Wilson's pedigree. Wilson, as you may remember, left N.C. State after graduating and having one year of eligibility remaining because coach Tom O'Brien wanted to go with Mike Glennon over Wilson.
In two years with the Red Raiders, Brewer attempted a total of just 58 passes. He was 41-of-58 for 440 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He saw action in a total of 13 games, including four in 2013. Brewer redshirted in 2011.
Jake Trotter of ESPN.com noted that Brewer was originally projected to start for Texas Tech in 2013, but a back injury in the summer allowed Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield to surpass him on the depth chart.
He enters a much more promising situation with Virginia Tech. The Hokies just lost three-year starter Logan Thomas and the only quarterback on the roster with experience is Leal. In three years as a backup to Thomas, Leal completed 28 of 48 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Hokies did sign a pair of 4-star prospects at quarterback in Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin. Ford enrolled in January and will likely have an opportunity to compete with Leal, Brewer and rising sophomore Brenden Motley to start for Virginia Tech in 2014.
As he told Bitter, Brewer knows he isn't going to be given the starting job:
Nothing is guaranteed. I’ve got to come in and earn it. But both the coaches and I thought it was a good situation and a great opportunity.
Virginia Tech plays great defense. They just need to get back going on offense again and once that happens, you’ll have a chance to win a championship. And that’s the goal.
Brewer's arrival will give offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler the opportunity to redshirt both of his freshmen quarterbacks if he chooses to do so.
But what about this fall?
Can Brewer unseat Leal, who head coach Frank Beamer said in January was the leading candidate to be the starting quarterback in 2014?
It's hard to tell until spring practice begins. Leal's first extensive playing time came in the Sun Bowl loss to UCLA and he wasn't particularly impressive. Leal was 12-of-25 for 130 yards and two interceptions against a ferocious UCLA pass rush.
Beamer, however, told reporters that he wasn't concerned with Leal's performance against the Bruins:
Mark’s the next guy in line here, he had a couple tough throws. He’ll learn from that. That’s not a great situation for your backup guy to step into. But I’ve got a lot of confidence in Mark. I’ve seen him in practice too many times.
It may be a bit presumptuous to say Beamer and Loeffler do not believe in Leal. However, if the coaching staff had full confidence in Leal, would it have even entertained accepting a transfer at the quarterback position?
Virginia Tech has long preferred dual-threat quarterbacks. With Loeffler and his recruiting efforts over the past year, however, that trend appears to be changing.
Two quarterbacks who committed to the Hokies in 2013—Carlis Parker and Bucky Hodges—have now changed positions. Parker played receiver last season and Hodges just moved to tight end. Both were considered dual-threat quarterbacks coming out of high school.
Leal fits that mold. At 6'1", 217 pounds, Leal is a good athlete, but he isn't Thomas or Tyrod Taylor. His arm strength has steadily improved over the last three years and he is deserving of an opportunity.
Brewer, a 3-star prospect coming out of Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, in 2011, is 6'1", 185 pounds and considered more of a pocket passer. Based on his film, though, he appears to be a solid athlete.
The Hokies lost several quality starters from a terrific defense in 2013. However, defense is never the problem in Blacksburg. If Tech can get quality play from the quarterback position next season, it can win the ACC Coastal Division.
Who'll start for the Hokies under center in 2014?
Leal will certainly get the first crack at it, but Brewer didn't transfer to Virginia Tech without assurances that he would be given a fair opportunity at becoming the Hokies' starting quarterback—as soon as this fall.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.com (subscription required).