Spring 2016 is shaping up to be the most exciting and different experience since, well, since most folks were even vaguely aware of spring football practice and the Spring Game. So far, there has been a recruiting and signing explosion of eligible Junior College players who not only have experience, but can get into the flow of any new program starting with the new semester in January.
That's a first level change in the recruiting and depth chart positioning. There have been early signing and a few community college signings in the past, but not to this degree, and not at the positions that we are currently seeing. Coach Fuente and staff are moving fast to immediately fill holes in the roster with players, not prospects. There are serious and substantive moves being made, and they are occurring with speed that is kind of rare in Blacksburg. Traditionally our coaches have spent the usual scouting, selling, and offering efforts competing with other schools and other coaches; and then waiting patiently for kids to keep their verbal commitments at signing day.
Well, it's different, now. So let's look at what we have and what might shake out of the fresh influx of ready to play talent. To keep this readable, we'll look at each position's churn; and what might happen for the first snaps of the Spring Game. It looks like the coaching staff is after checking off the first two priorities that haven't been there for a few years' quality and depth in the Quarterback position. There isn't a more thinly filled column in the depth chart.
The Existing: (I'd say old, but none of these young men are old to me.)
Brenden Motley's status for his redshirt senior year is unknown at this time. He is presumably graduating in the spring, and there are possibilities that might suit his talents and playing style in other levels of college football. That is if he even wants to continue to fill his final year of eligibility.
Chris Durkin is problematic. He's been bouncing between Quarterback and H-Back/Tight End for the entire season, and hasn't seemed to settle into any one position. The new coaching might stabilize his position. Given his high school QB stats and Coach Fuente's history Durkin might get another look there. He also might look at Lawson, and now the new Jérod Evans pickup (more a bit later) and decide to make the jump to another position permanent. He could transfer, but that would cost him some time and probable eligibility.
Dwayne Lawson is facing some serious challenges in his second year. What we know is that his first year was unproductive at the field experience level. We can only guess at whether or not he made some progress in basic technique, downfield reads, and leadership qualities that coaches normally try to establish in a redshirt year. The fact that he has lost a year of eligibility largely riding the pine is not lost on more than a few analysts. His time on the field for 2015 was small and limited to QB runs; even when Brenden Motley was severely stressed and should have been pulled. Folks can read what they want into that situation.
Jérod Evans is coach Fuente's first big immediate impact signing. Evans is big at 6'4" and 220. He's rated at four stars, but more than that, he's got serious playing time. That time is the critical early years of hiccups and burps that occur in the first year or two on the field. There is little doubt that Evans was recruited and signed because Coach Fuente sees an immediate need for an experienced quarterback in a physical mold that makes his offensive play design work. I fully expect that Evans will be challenging the highest slot on the depth chart the minute he suits up in the Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange.
Joshua Jackson was a Beamer era recruit who is deciding to stick around to make a statement at Lane Stadium in front of Hokie Nation. He is highly recruited, and even has an offer from Navy on the board. His dual threat qualities are obviously interesting to Coach Fuente, but again, it remains to be seen what sort of offense develops out of the coach's playbook. Jackson is starting this January, but will be a freshman for the fall season. That is significant because he presents the new offensive coaching staff with a clean slate to develop along the lines that they see fit.
Here are their specifics from Hokie Sports.
Of course what this all means is that the Quarterback position went from being a vague uncertain three deep to five deep with at least three high quality 4-Star prospects/players in the system. The best guess at the moment, and given the circumstances is that we will probably see the new prospects dominating the depth chart at Quarterback. Dwayne Lawson has some serious competition to deal with, but my feeling is that will come in two seasons, unless something happens Evans looks like he's the penciled in Number 1 in the depth chart. Maybe they give a redshirt to Jackson if Lawson continues to develop as a capable backup and into a starter in two years.
Only time will tell, and the Spring Game is going to not only be meaningful, but it could be exciting. What is sure is that we have some really good players to build depth and experience on at quarterback, which is a rarity for us of late.
Offensive Line and Wide Receivers next