As has been the case for two of the last three seasons, the position of quarterback is questionable heading into the season for Virginia Tech Football. The last time the Hokies started a non-transfer quarterback going into the season was Logan Thomas, and since then they have employed the short-term hires of Michael Brewer and Jerod Evans. Both quarterbacks brought ups and downs for the program, but neither have brought year-to-year consistency. Brewer had an injury-ridden career and Jerod left for the NFL after his impressive year. This year the Hokies have ample quarterbacks to choose from, both transfer and in-house, and Head Coach Justin Fuente likes his quarterback competitions, so let’s dive into this year’s candidates:
AJ Bush is a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, and previously Nebraska. His careers at both leave a lot to be desired. He didn’t get play time at Nebraska and his Junior College career at Iowa Western ended with 602 yards passing, three touchdowns, and eight interceptions on less than a 50% completion percentage. His rushing stats showed some inefficiency with 285 yards on 95 rushes, as well as five touchdowns and seven fumbles. Neither of these stat lines show a great feel for the position, but he possesses great size and athleticism. He stands at 6’4” and weighs 220 lbs.
It has taken little time for the coaches and team to take to him, as he has joined the football team leadership council, and has also received a ‘Hard Hat Award’ for his hard work during the offseason. Coach Fuente has placed an emphasis this offseason on limiting fumbles, so AJ Bush’s history with those could do him a detriment, but based on his size, he might have a decent chance at playing this season.
Perhaps the candidate with the most potential, Hendon Hooker brings size, speed, and raw talent to the table. The four star recruit out of Greensboro, North Carolina, enrolled early this spring and immediately showed in practice what made him such a highly touted prospect. Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen has spoken highly of his arm, saying he has “one of the best just pure releases [he has] seen.”
During the spring game, he showcased those skills by going 10 of 11 for 113 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he also showed he has room to improve with miscommunication leading to an interception. He thought the receiver was running a slant route to the middle of the field but when the receiver (correctly) cut to the sidelines, his throw landed right into the arms of the corner back. If Hendon can fix the mistakes sooner rather than later, he might see the field this season, even though Fuente is not known to start true freshman quarterbacks.
Spring practices for Josh Jackson were productive for him. He earned the praise of Coach Fuente for his quick development and ability to manage certain situations in practice. Jackson was a three-star recruit from Saline, Michigan, and enrolled early in the spring of 2016. He quickly joined the quarterback competition with Jerod Evans and Brenden Motley, but was eventually redshirted.
This year his performance in the spring game was average in the snaps he played, as he went four of eight for 67 yards. He is the smallest of the competing QBs by about three inches at 6’1”, which is a bit smaller than the typical QB that Fuente has been known to start and develop, but that’s hardly a reason to count him out of the competition. He’s still a young and talented QB, and even if his opportunity doesn’t come this season, it easily could come down the road.
Last year it took until the fall to name a starting quarterback, and I don’t think this season will be much different. All of these players have shown why they were brought in, which bodes well for the offense. There has been little word out of Coach Fuente about who will wind up the starter, much like last year, and he likely intends to keep it that way to get the most out of his players as well as keep the opponents guessing.