augusta free press news

Is Virginia Tech vulnerable in William and Mary season opener?

michael brewerVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer made official over the weekend what a lot of us thought was inevitable in naming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer the starting quarterback for the Hokies’ opener with William and Mary this weekend.

Brewer, a redshirt junior, had been tabbed as the starter in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense in the spring of 2013 before losing his job and sliding down the depth chart following a summer injury. He graduated from Texas Tech in May and thus was able to transfer to Tech and play immediately with two years of eligibility remaining.

He beat out Mark Leal, Logan Thomas’ backup the past three years, in a spirited QB battle in training camp, but as talented as Brewer is, you have to wonder how well he knows the offense. He’s had barely three weeks to pick up the nuances of Scot Loeffler’s offense, from the terminology to protection schemes and checkoffs at the line.

No doubt he will pick it up; three years at Texas Tech with the demands that are put on quarterbacks in a pass-first offense demand a lot in terms of quarterback IQ. And an opener against a I-AA foe like William and Mary is just about what you’d ask for if you’re Frank Beamer trying to break in a quarterback who has been around for less than a month.

That said, Tech fans remember a 2010 game with JMU as their lesson in how so-called guarantee games are anything but, and the 2014 Tribe, like that 2010 JMU team, is no pushover. Ranked #19 in the preseason FCS poll, W&M has its own I-A scalp, a 2009 win at Virginia, and has had second-half leads over FBS foes West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina in the past four years.

It helps the Hokies a bit that William and Mary comes into the opener with its own questions at quarterback, with coach Jimmye Laycock only naming his starter, sophomore Steve Cluley, on Monday.

Expect a bit of a defensive slugfest to unfold at Lane Stadium on Saturday, which should play to Virginia Tech’s advantage. But a low-scoring game can keep the underdog in longer than the home fans will feel comfortable with, and a game like that can play out like the JMU upset in 2010, which saw the ‘dog Dukes hang around in the second half before taking advantage of a couple of Tech miscues to pull away late.

If Brewer can avoid the big mistake, Tech can lay some groundwork toward its Week 2 matchup with Ohio State, which itself is having to break in a new QB after losing Braxton Miller for the season to injury in training camp.

The bet is that Brewer does what is necessary to get the W on the board for the Hokies, but don’t expect it to be pretty.

– Column by Chris Graham