Logan Thomas has left the building. The big-armed, strong legged quarterback of the Hokies offense has taken his talents to the next level – trading game film and academia for millions of dollars and a clipboard to carry. While the major reason for Virginia Tech’s success on offense last season is no longer a part of the program, fans can take solace in the fact Frank Beamer is still in Blacksburg.
For eight years in a row, Beamer and the Hokies won at least 10 games. The past two seasons, however, this is a school that tripped up a bit in its pursuit of a major bowl game and in the process watched other ACC schools pass them by with bigger, better teams. Can Beamer bring back the magic this season? After changes on the staff a year ago — and one massive departure under center this year — Beamer is hoping to return to the ACC title picture in 2014. Thirteen starters return to this squad in 2014. Here are the five biggest questions to answer for this school in 2014 according to AthlonSports.com.
Is Mark Leal the answer behind center?
Leal, a rising redshirt senior, is the most experienced quarterback on the roster and he threw just four passes during the regular season a year ago. The most action he saw was in the Sun Bowl blowout against UCLA when Thomas was hurt. He completed 11-of-24 passes for 128 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. His performance in that one game isn’t indicative of his potential success or failure in 2014 but it certainly looked like he was in over his head.
If not Leal, then who?
Rising junior Brenden Motley and sophomore-to-be Andrew Ford should get plenty of chances this spring to prove themselves. All three need to make waves this spring before talented Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer arrives this summer. Leal is the frontrunner but will have to play very well to hold off the more pro-style Brewer once fall camp opens.
Who leads at linebacker?
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster must replace Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum at the back end of his defense, but since his roster is so loaded (SEE Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson), the linebacker position is of much greater importance this spring. Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards are gone after a combined 174 tackles a year ago and Tyler’s leadership, in particular, will be missed. Josh Trimble isn’t going to be a superstar but he has the most experience and the inside track on a starting spot. Ronny Vandyke is back after missing all of last year with a shoulder injury but will be moving slowly (and carefully) in spring camp.
What about the defensive line?
Luther Maddy, the team’s leading sack artist (6.5) returns but James Gayle, Derrick Hopkins and J.R. Collins are all gone from the rotation. That trio posted 149 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss and 16.0 sacks a year ago. The return of Corey Marshall, who missed all of last year with an injury, will help replace Hopkins at tackle. Otherwise, Dadi Nicolas, Ken Ekanem, Seth Dooley and Dewayne Alford will all compete for playing time up front. Maddy is a solid pass rusher but this group needs to be developed around him if Tech wants to stop the budding offensive rushing attacks in the ACC.
How many games can this team win?
Seven to nine wins. Nationally, some are wondering what the future of the Hokies' program is after two “down” years in Blacksburg. The ACC has gotten a lot better around Tech over the last few years and that makes it tougher on everyone. Beamer and Foster are proven winners and will have another salty defense this year. But coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense needs to improve in short order without a proven signal-caller if Virginia Tech wants to win the Coastal Division. The good news is the schedule. There is no Clemson, no Florida State and no Louisville on the slate in crossover play and games with Georgia Tech and Miami take place in Blacksburg.