While the Hokies’ other position battles are important, none can compare to the hunt for the team’s next starting quarterback.
Redshirt senior Mark Leal has long been considered the front-runner for the position, and Beamer affirmed that at the start of spring practice, telling the Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter that Leal was a “better quarterback than he showed in the bowl game."
Leal’s 125-yard and two-interception performance in the Sun Bowl certainly didn’t inspire much confidence, but he’ll get a chance to prove himself in the spring.
However, he won’t be without competition. Redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley is an athletic passer that spent last year backing up Thomas, while 3-star prospect Andrew Ford enrolled early to get acquainted with the offense.
While all three have plenty to offer, it’s impossible to consider this competition complete without the presence of fellow recruits Chris Durkin and Travon McMillian and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer.
But the spring will give Leal a chance to prove that he truly deserves his front-runner status, or to eliminate some of the competition, as French writes.
But, the spring could eliminate candidates. My guess is initially Brenden Motley and Andrew Ford will get around half the leftover snaps between the two of them. If one outperforms Leal, he will get more work. But, if he doesn't (especially Ford) chances are much more likely that they won't have the same opportunity in the fall. When fall practice kicks off, for the first two weeks Loeffler has to find enough snaps to evaluate six players. Most of those reps are going to go to the best performer this spring and likely Michael Brewer. Loeffler will also want to get a good evaluation on Durkin and McMillian. That doesn't leave many snaps for Motley and Ford unless they perform at a starter's caliber level in spring.
Should Ford fail to keep up with Leal and Motley, it’ll be an easy decision for the staff to redshirt him.
But for Motley, the spring is even more important. Once the other candidates arrive in the fall, the field will likely be too crowded for him to make an impression, so spring is huge for him.
These three will have an important first crack at making a strong impression before the reinforcements arrive, and it sounds like Beamer will give them every chance to get a leg up on the new arrivals.
"I think first thing is the ones that are here, you evaluate,” he told Bitter. "Are they going to be the guy that’s going to lead you? And if not, I think you go right to the new ones coming in and give them every opportunity. I think these guys this spring, it’s an important time for them and for us and see if anyone comes out of that group."
It’s absolutely vital for the team’s success that someone steps up and seizes the reins of the offense.
While the fall will offer more answers, it would be very meaningful indeed if someone like Leal proved he deserved the job.
No matter who steps up, this will be the position battle that deserves every Hokie fan's rapt attention.