Virginia Tech still searching for new starting quarterback


Virginia Tech quarterbacks Mark Leal, left, and Andrew Ford throw during the first day of spring practice. (Rebecca Barnett/Associated Press)

Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler entered the room brooding. Usually, he offers scant details following a spring scrimmage, hoping to watch the film before making any definitive statements.

But Saturday’s session with reporters began with words like “terrible” and “disappointed.” Already he knew the film would be littered with mistakes on an afternoon when he declared the offense “took two steps back.”

The most glaring issue, though, remained the same, if only because Virginia Tech hasn’t experienced it often under Coach Frank Beamer. The Hokies still don’t know who their quarterback will be next fall, and the answer will only become more convoluted after the program holds its annual spring game Saturday at Lane Stadium.

“May 28, there’s two guys that come in here and it’s going to get really competitive, really fast,” Loeffler said Saturday.

The past month has featured its own battle under center between redshirt senior Mark Leal and redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley, who moved ahead of Leal on the team’s depth chart last week. Beamer even made tackling the quarterbacks legal in scrimmages this week, a rarity in spring football that will continue for Saturday’s spring game.

Every move Motley and Leal make is being scrutinized, and Loeffler believes “whenever there’s people around you, in your face and you’re making plays or not making plays, that’s really a huge indicator.” The plan, Beamer added, is to determine the top three candidates for the job heading into August training camp.

This past Saturday, at least, neither Motley nor Leal seemed ready for the spotlight.

Motley finished 5 of 11 for 46 yards and one touchdown and Leal was just 6 of 17 for 50 yards and one touchdown working with the No. 2 offense. The Hokies gained only 29 yards on 33 carries running the ball.

Last season with former quarterback Logan Thomas under center during Loeffler’s first year at Virginia Tech, Loeffler’s unit was ranked No. 101 in the country in total offense.

“We were holding our own all spring. We were competitive. We were making strides and we took two steps back,” said Loeffler, noting the problems extended beyond the quarterbacks.

“We went completely back to what we were, and we’ve been fighting not to be what we were today. . . . I think they got a good understanding of if you come out not focused, not competitive, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re gonna get your rear end kicked.”

Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and incoming freshman Chris Durkin, who attended Tuesday’s practice as a spectator, arrive on campus in May and both will be immediately thrust into the quarterback competition.

Brewer is the most intriguing option, since he plans to graduate from Texas Tech this spring and will have two years of eligibility remaining once he gets to Virginia Tech. The former three-star recruit appeared in nine career games with the Red Raiders — more than any other quarterback on the Hokies’ roster — and completed 34 of his 48 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Brewer was slated to be Texas Tech’s starting signal caller last year before a summer back injury derailed his season.

It remains to be seen how quickly Durkin can adjust to the college game. Fellow freshman signal caller Andrew Ford, who enrolled early for spring practice, has struggled with decision making and the speed of Virginia Tech’s defense during his initial practices and could be headed for a redshirt year.

It appears all the competition, however, will be chasing Motley initially. The local favorite from nearby Christiansburg, Va., has mostly been an afterthought since coming to Virginia Tech, but he raised some eyebrows with his improved accuracy and natural feel for the game this spring.

Known as a wing-T quarterback in high school, Motley could be the sort of dual threat option Virginia Tech fans have become accustomed to under center over the years. He was No. 3 on the depth chart last year behind both Thomas and Leal and, over time, would like to be recognized as a pocket passer who can run if necessary.

Motley overtook Leal, hampered at times this spring by a knee injury, after completing 12 of his 20 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown in a scrimmage on April 12. But like everyone around Lane Stadium these days, he still isn’t sure what to make of this competition.

“I think I’ve earned some credit for what I’ve done, but I have no idea what people are thinking,” Motley said.

Mark Giannotto covers high school sports for The Washington Post.
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