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August 21, 2012

Leal biding his time behind Tech's star QB

By: Jimmy Robertson

There is a longstanding joke in football that the most popular player on a team is the backup quarterback.

In Blacksburg, though, Tech fans, coaches and current players like their starter quite nicely, as Logan Thomas returns to the helm following a season in which he threw for 3,013 yards and 19 touchdowns and also ran for 469 yards and 11 touchdowns. He set a single-season record for total offense, and he goes into the 2012 campaign as a top candidate for national honors.

Mark Leal (pronounced Lee-al), Tech’s backup, knows all this. The redshirt sophomore fully expects to spend another season on the sideline learning – and waiting.

“I have no choice,” he said. “Patience is the key. Sometimes, it’s hard because in high school, you’re the starter. But in college, you’ve got to work your way up. Rarely do you come in and get to start. That’s just how it is at this level.”

Rest assured, though, that Tech’s coaches feel quite comfortable with Leal, who played in three games last season and threw two touchdown passes. The coaches wanted to unleash Leal this spring, but he suffered a respiratory infection and missed the latter half of spring practice.

This summer, the Florida native was a leader in 7-on-7 passing drills and spent three or four days a week throwing to receivers to develop chemistry. He needs to be in top form, too, because Tech doesn’t have another backup quarterback on the roster with game experience.

“Spring is the most important time for a guy like me, so that was hard,” Leal said. “I still learned and did as much as I could. I spent the summer getting into the playbook because we changed some things offensively, so I need to understand what I’ve missed, and I developed my timing and chemistry with these young receivers we have. Those were the most important things for me.”

Leal will be pulling for blowouts this fall in hopes of getting to play. He could have transferred to get immediate playing time somewhere else, but never gave it a thought. He’s hoping his patience pays off.

“I knew when I came in that I was going to be behind someone,” he said. “If I left, I’d be quitting on myself and the team, and that’s not the person I am.

“Every day, I look at Lane Stadium. I know that, one day, that’ll be me in the huddle, trying to win championships.”



3 Logan Thomas (6-6, 260, r-Jr.)

6 Mark Leal (6-1, 213, r-Soph.)

12 Trey Gresh (6-1, 212, r-Soph.)

16 Brenden Motley (6-3, 207, Fr.)

8 Connor Jessop (6-3, 204, Fr.)


Returning starter: Logan Thomas (14 career starts)

Starter lost: none

Projected new starter: none

Top reserves: Mark Leal, Trey Gresh

Newcomer: Brenden Motley, Connor Jessop

Breakout candidate: N/A

Notes: Thomas set a Tech single-season record with 3,482 yards of total offense last season … Thomas’ 234 completions, 391 attempts and 3,013 yards passing all rank second in Tech history for a single season behind only Don Strock’s records set in 1972 … His 11 rushing touchdowns tied the school record set by Bruce Arians in 1974 for rushing scores by a quarterback in a season … Leal played in three games last season – no other reserve quarterback on the roster has seen action from scrimmage.