BLACKSBURG, VA. — Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Mark Leal got a rude awakening last spring when he looked at the quarterback depth chart and saw his name near the bottom of the list. But after another solid showing Saturday, Leal appears poised to be Virginia Tech’s No. 2 signal caller when the real games begin next month.
The Greenacres, Fla., native completed 6 of 13 passes for 116 yards, threw an interception and connected on a 44-yard touchdown pass in the Hokies’ first full preseason scrimmage. Afterward, Coach Frank Beamer said the battle between Leal and redshirt junior Ju-Ju Clayton to back up new starter Logan Thomas is Leal’s to lose with less than three weeks until Virginia Tech’s season opener against Appalachian State.
“There’s enough difference between the two right now that we can make that decision and move forward and let [Leal] get the No. 2 snaps so that if something does happen, he’ll be ready to play,” quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said.
Leal closed spring practice well and left a good impression on the coaching staff, which declared him tied with the veteran Clayton entering training camp. Last year, Clayton (6 of 10 for 51 yards and a touchdown Saturday) lost out on the No. 2 quarterback job to Thomas during training camp.
Leal said he struggled at first learning the playbook, and that his strong finish in the spring was the result of his increasing comfort level in the offense. O’Cain has come away impressed with Leal’s arm strength and ability to remain calm in the pocket with pressure in his face.
“Coming out of the spring I was tied with Ju-Ju for second, so I did surprise myself with how fast I progressed,” said Leal, who also missed practice time this week with a strained groin. “My job now is just to keep it, keep progressing, and get better.”
Leal will have one less competitor to worry about, too. Beamer confirmed after the scrimmage was complete that former All-Met quarterback Ricardo Young (H.D. Woodson High) has decided to transfer from Virginia Tech.
The redshirt freshman injured his foot and missed most of spring practice, forcing him to fight an uphill battle trying to catch Leal and Clayton on the depth chart the past two weeks.
“He was worried about the number of reps he was getting here in the fall,” Beamer said of Young. “He’ll be a good quarterback for someone.”
As for the Hokies’ starting quarterback, Thomas, he completed 4 of 8 passes for 79 yards with one interception. His longest completion was a 31-yard bootleg to tight end Chris Drager, but Thomas said after the scrimmage that he was limited a bit physically after tweaking his left hamstring in practice this week.
Thomas said that while he’s not 100 percent, “it’s not keeping me from doing anything I want to do.”
Notes: Wide receiver Danny Coale averaged 42.7 yards on three punts, but Beamer said redshirt junior Scott Demler could win the starting punting job since he’s worried about using Coale at two positions. Demler averaged 40 yards on his three punts Saturday. . . .
Senior Justin Myer nailed a 52-yard field goal with plenty of distance, but redshirt sophomore Cody Journell remains the leader for the place-kicking job after hitting 3 of 4 field goal attempts. . . . Running back David Wilson led the offense with 57 rushing yards and a touchdown on five carries. Freshman Luther Maddy, a defensive tackle battling for a spot on the two-deep chart, finished with a team-high eight tackles and one sack.