With Logan Thomas participating in the National Football League Scouting Combine, the reality has set in that the Virginia Tech football team will have to find a replacement at quarterback in the 2014 season.
In the most recent recruiting cycle, the Hokies brought in two top-flight quarterback recruits in Chris Durkin from Youngstown, Ohio and Andrew Ford from Camp Hill, Pa. Both were rated as four-star recruits and seem to have bright futures in Tech’s program.
However, neither is likely to be ready as a true freshman to take the reins of a Tech offense that has struggled in recent years. Ford, the more polished passer of the two, is undersized for a college player, and while Durkin has the size, he is still too raw.
The options already in Blacksburg aren’t much better.
Mark Leal was already passed over once when Logan Thomas was named the starting quarterback in 2011. Entering his redshirt senior season, Leal has had scarce playing time, and while he could surprise, there’s likely a good reason he has been a career backup.
The most significant playing time Leal has gotten was against UCLA in the Sun Bowl after an injury forced Thomas into an early exit.
While Leal likely wasn’t prepared to take the starting spot so suddenly, he looked overwhelmed in the role.
Leal completed just 12 of 25 passing attempts for 130 yards and zero touchdowns and also threw two interceptions, with one being returned for a touchdown by UCLA.
On that play, Leal couldn’t find an open receiver and held onto the ball long enough for a UCLA defender to break through the Tech offensive line. While in the process of being sacked, Leal decided to side arm the ball wildly and it ended up in the hands of a defender.
It was a mistake a high school quarterback would be chewed out for and just increased doubts in Leal’s ability to carry an offense that relied so heavily on his predecessor to succeed.
Behind Leal is lightly regarded local product Brenden Motley, who played at Christiansburg High School. While Motley has allegedly impressed coaches in practice, the Hokies are in more trouble than first imagined if he’s the one starting Aug. 30.
The good news is that the Hokies have been recently linked to a pair of quarterbacks who are transferring this offseason — Max Wittek from Southern California and Michael Brewer from Texas Tech. While both have a number of offers from other top schools, they would be perfect fits in Blacksburg.
Wittek was a highly touted recruit who ran into setbacks during his two years at USC, where he passed for just 600 yards and three touchdowns and never got a handle on the starting quarterback job. Wittek is graduating this spring and could take advantage of the graduate school exemption that would make him immediately eligible upon transferring.
Brewer is not a grad school transfer, but he still could get a waiver from Texas Tech to allow him to play immediately. Brewer played in nine games his redshirt freshman season, but found himself low in the quarterback pecking order during the 2013 season.
Brewer first attempted to transfer to Texas Christian University or Texas without having to sit out, but Texas Tech denied his release since those schools are conference foes. If Texas Tech is more amenable to a transfer to an out-of-conference school, he too could start immediately.
Both quarterbacks would have two years of eligibility remaining after transferring, which is another key for the Hokies. Being able to give Durkin and Ford time to develop while still having a high performing quarterback on the roster would help the Hokies tremendously.
While there are a number of competitors for both quarterbacks’ services, the Hokies would be well suited to make a strong run at both.