August 21, 2013
Leal quietly having a great August
Football Camp: Behind The Scenes

BLACKSBURG – Mark Leal is one of the least-interviewed players on Tech’s squad even though he plays at the most important position on the team. But the backup to quarterback Logan Thomas has enjoyed a fine August. In fact, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler called Leal’s performance this August “ridiculous,” saying that Leal can do everything that Thomas can do.

“That’s what is nice about him [Leal],” Loeffler said. “You don’ t have to alter anything.

“I like Mark a lot. I don’t think he played to his potential in the scrimmage [last Saturday]. But I think he’s had a really good camp.”

Leal, a redshirt junior, told reporters on Tuesday that he enjoyed playing in Loeffler’s offense, even though it meant learning a whole different scheme than the one he had played in for the previous three years.

“So far, I love this offense,” Leal said. “Coach has really found the strengths within our team. He’s built our offense around those strengths, and it’s really cool to see someone who has so much knowledge be able to create an offense that’s best for the team. It’s been fun to run. It’s a lot different than what we had in the past. Coaching-wise, I really love Coach Loeffler. He’s really smart. He knows a lot about football, and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.”

Leal’s role is a critical one. Thomas has started every game for the past two seasons, and at 6-foot-6, 250-plus pounds, he possesses a body that can withstand the daily punishment that football presents. At the same time, no one is invincible.

All backups, including Leal, received a wake-up call of sorts when whip linebacker Ronny Vandyke went down for the season with a shoulder injury last week. Backups need to be ready – and none more so than Leal because of his position’s importance.

“Since I’ve been the backup, I’ve always had my eyes open,” Leal said. “Logan’s a big, physical quarterback, and he’s not scared to take off running and lower his shoulder. You always have to be ready. All it takes is one play, and I try to prepare myself the best that I can, so that if that situation [an injury] were to occur, I’ll be ready.”

Leal is good enough to be a starter. The coaches know that, too. In fact, last year, one coached joked that he always checked and made sure Leal had returned from Florida for summer workouts “just to be sure.”

But Leal is a patient person.

“I get asked that a lot,” he said, smiling, when asked if he was patient. “I’d said that, yes, I am. I have a lot of patience. I’ve been behind Logan for going on three years now. People always ask, ‘Why don’t you transfer? Why don’t you leave?’ But that’s never been an issue with me. I’ve been patient. God has a plan for everybody, and this is part of my plan, just waiting my turn.

“I’m not going to lie. It [transferring] has run across my mind, but I’ve never taken it into serious consideration. I’ve never been on the verge of being ready to leave. I’m Tech all the way.”

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).

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