Justin Fuente breaks down Virginia Tech quarterback competition
Jerod Evans threw for 3,546 yards, led Virginia Tech in rushing, had a hand in 41 touchdowns, but he’s gone.
“Well, we’ll see,” Fuente told the media at the 2017 ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte on Friday. “We’ve obviously got an open competition there at quarterback, three very capable candidates. I really believe that offense has got to fit the quarterback and whatever his skill set was, and I think Brad Cornelsen did a fantastic job last year of twisting and turning the offense to fit Jerod`s skill set, and in turn it was very, very productive.”
The competition is down to redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, transfer A.J. Bush and incoming freshman Hendon Hooker, who enrolled in January to be able to take part in spring practice.
None of the three emerged from spring ball as the leader in the clubhouse heading into the fall, complicating a rebuild of an offense that also lost wideouts Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges to the NFL, and has struggled dating back to the last few seasons of legendary Tech coach Frank Beamer’s tenure to get a running game going.
Virginia Tech did see some positive movement on the ground in Fuente’s first year, ranking fifth in the ACC with 183.1 yards per game.
But Evans’ ability to produce yardage out of the zone-read and scrambles was a key factor in that. Evans had a team-high 846 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2016.
“The first thing I would say is that I don’t really care who runs the ball. I don’t care if it’s the running backs or the wide receivers or the quarterback, but we do have to be able to run the ball,” Fuente said. “There’s no substitute for that. So we were able to rush the football, just came in a different manner. We had a 240-pound quarterback that was really effective and had some toughness and did a good job with it.
“For us, it’s making sure we do find a way to run the ball and then find a way to make big plays out of the passing game. I think you’ll see us continue to find a guy that we feel good about running the football. I think continuing to find some guys on the perimeter that we like handing or pitching or flipping the ball to continue to manufacture ways to run it.”
The QB position is obviously the key to it all. Fuente told reporters that his primary focus in evaluating his quarterbacks is how they value the football.
“Jerod did a really good job of that last year,” said Fuente, referring to how Evans threw just eight interceptions in 2016. “They are going to have to take care of the ball and give ourselves a chance. The things that we always look for are predicted outcomes. We ran play A, did our quarterback do everything we are coaching them to do, regardless of whether it is a completion or if everyone else did their job. How many times can we do that on a consistent basis and still value the football?”
Fuente wants you to believe that he actually likes the challenge of having to figure out who his new starting quarterback will be.
“It will be interesting to see how it goes. I am excited to go get into it,” Fuente said. “Each season is different, there are always unknowns and all of that stuff, but I have complete trust in Brad and his ability to do those things. I am looking forward to getting out there and seeing which way it goes.”
Story by Chris Graham