Red-shirt sophomore quarterback Brenden Motley apparently didn't get the memo. Many thought it a forgone conclusion that he'd be moving to the defensive side of the ball after spring practices ended. With a red-shirt senior quarterback waiting in the wings in Mark Leal; a red-shirt junior transfer from Texas Tech Michael Brewer set to arrive in May, and two highly touted freshman entering the program in Andrew Ford (enrolled in January) and Chris Durkin (both recruited by Scot Loeffler personally), the general perception was that the 6'4", 220lb Motley would soon make a switch to safety to take advantage of his size and speed.
This past Saturday's scrimmage at Lane Stadium changed all of that. Motley, who took the first team repetitions in place of injured No.1 QB Mark Leal made most of his opportunity. In addition to completing 12-20 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, Motley didn't commit any turnovers, something the incumbent Leal had struggled with. Considering Beamer's penchant for playing cautiously, playing error-free was probably chief among his justifications for moving Motley up the depth chart. Motley also showed the ability to escape the pocket and run with the ball, further validating his reputation as a dual threat quarterback.
The first team offense and defense went head to head for three series for a total of 18 plays. Motley's 56 yard touchdown pass to Demetri Knowles went against the second team defense, but his overall body of work during the scrimmage and his steady play this spring have obviously made a significant impression.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
You can never have too many good quarterbacks on your roster. If Motley continues his string of impressive performances, it's going to make QB competition all that much exciting in August and raise the level of play when fall camp opens. Michael Brewer, who many thought would easily overtake Mark Leal for the starting job, now potentially has another viable candidate to contend with.
WHAT DOES LEAL DO IF HE STAYS AT NO.2?
That's a good question. As bad as you feel for Leal at this point, the coaches MUST put the best player out there. No time to spare feelings, Hokie football is a big time business and we are in it for wins. Period. Who knows what Leal will do if he remains at No.2 once spring ends. He could transfer to a FBS school and play immediately, or can grind it out and try to win back the coaches confidence. It's a tough spot to be in regardless.
As Leal has been nursing a knee injury, he has long known that his best opportunity to impress an Offensive Coordinator that didn't recruit him was to turn in a good spring session. He's literally put in 4.5 years to get to this month of practices. Yes, the chances for Leal to audition have been largely unfair. Having to play behind an out-manned offensive line in the Sun Bowl for just a half, and now battling through all the transition in the spring with an injury. He has had zero room for error, and he has proven to be nothing but error-prone to date. From an objective viewpoint, it's tough to see loyalty rewarded in such a fashion. However, from a selfish standpoint, you ask yourself if you want a player starting games at your most important position when Coach Beamer refused to inject him into games no matter how badly Logan Thomas struggled. All you can do is read between the lines.
PROGNOSTICATION FOR THE FALL
My personal opinion is that Michael Brewer will come in and win the job, and play two great years for the Hokies. But with that in mind, he will have to hit the ground running and be well-versed in the playbook, as the number of repetitions he will receive in August will be all he gets before the season opens.
Leal is struggling. Battling his injury, his own confidence, and a ticking clock that chimes "Brewer's Coming" on the hour. Now this development. Of course, it could just be a very socialist way of running things too. Motley has been available, so Motley is the #1. Perhaps it's a subtle nudge to Leal to see how much he truly wants to start at QB for the Hokies. Not knowing the severity of the injury, it's tough to say whether the staff thinks he can play through it or not; and of course they'd never admit it. Not in this era of litigation and watchdogs. We might be right back here after the Spring Game talking about how he regained the job.
Motley is riding a tremendous wave of momentum and confidence, plus he has the prototypical size and speed that the coaches desire (they're lying if they say otherwise). He will earn time somewhere. Only time will tell if he's a pawn in the psychological game coaches play with their players, or if he has a legit shot. The difficulty one could see occurring with Motley is that they sit him behind a competent Brewer, as the #2 or #3 (if Leal for some reason loses the job, and decides to stay). That would deprive him of the opportunity to go play Safety, which honestly may still be the best bet for both team and player. As is, next year will see both the red-shirts in the mix for the backup (or starting) job along with Brewer, and if Motley doesn't have a stranglehold on the job by then, his career could follow the same trajectory as Cory Holt's.
The two freshman in Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin will more than likely take a red-shirt, Ford will need more size and strength and Durkin will need time to digest the playbook and all the intangibles required to be competitive.
At this point, I foresee a Motley - Brewer battle under the hot August sun. We need the best option available to lead an offense that has been sputtering for the past two seasons.
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