Camp is officially underway in Blacksburg and that means the season is fast approaching. As the Hokies take the field, the major question Frank Beamer and the team needs to answer is who will take over at quarterback.
Virginia Tech released an updated depth chart on Monday as practice began, listing Mark Leal and Brenden Motley as co-starters. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer was listed on the second team and freshman Andrew Ford was third.
No one should read too much into the depth chart at this point. It makes sense that Brewer would fall behind both Leal and Motley based on his limited time with the team. It certainly does not hint at how the quarterback race will ultimately shakeout.
The Hokies also listed freshmen Chris Durkin, Travon McMillian and Matt Hill behind the other quarterback options. All four freshman, including Ford, are long shots. The coaches will watch them closely, but none came into camp with the type of hype that usually surrounds a true freshman who is ready to start right away.
That narrows the race down to Leal, Motley and Brewer.
As a redshirt senior, Leal has been with the team the longest. He was a backup last season for Logan Thomas and has seen limited action in each of the last three seasons.
Leal got his first ‘audition’ for the starting job last season as he came on in relief of Thomas in the Sun Bowl. The results were not inspiring. Leal completed 12 of 25 passes for 130 yards and threw two picks.
Coming in mid-game against a team as good as UCLA is a tall task for any quarterback so it would be unfair to judge Leal too harshly, but it is fair to say the quarterback competition would not be as wide open as it is had Leal come in and picked apart the Bruins' defense.
Motley, who received a preseason vote at the ACC Football Kickoff for player of the year, has not yet thrown a pass in his collegiate career. That makes it difficult to judge his chances of winning the job. As a redshirt sophomore, however, he still has two years of eligibility remaining after this season so even if he does not beat out Leal or Brewer, there is still time for him to develop and one day live up to that vote of confidence he received from one member of the media.
And then there’s Brewer.
The redshirt junior is the most experienced of the three quarterbacks after playing at Texas Tech. A back injury kept him out for most of the 2013 season allowing Davis Webb to establish himself in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
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Brewer has not automatically earned the job by transferring as some have speculated, but it is fair to say he would not have chosen Virginia Tech if he did not think he had a reasonable shot of starting.
As a transfer, however, he will have to catch up to the other quarterbacks in terms of the playbook and developing a rhythm with the receivers. That is no small feat, but with Leal failing to firmly supplant himself as Thomas’ successor, there is a real opening for Brewer to win the job.
Now that camp has started, the clock is ticking for the Hokies to name a starter. Until a pecking order can be established, these players are going to share snaps with the first team. Beamer will have to decide on a starter as quickly as possible to allow him to take control of the offense. The Hokies need to pick a starter and get him as many reps with the first team as possible at camp. This is even more critical with the Ohio State game looming on the horizon.
Camp may have just begun, but the clock is already ticking for the Hokies.