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What is it about Virginia Tech and Quarterbacks?

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The saga of Virginia Tech quarterback development and play over the last fifteen years is far from the methodical machine style system that so many other NCAA FBS top level programs have. What happened, and what that might mean in the future?

Michael Brewer showing flashes of what could have been in 2015
Michael Brewer showing flashes of what could have been in 2015
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We lost Michael Brewer to a questionable hit in the opening game of the season, and we had a top quality well prepared upperclassmen in the number two position to take over for him, um right?  Wait, come on... RIGHT?  Unfortunately the answer is an astounding and frustrating ‘NO'.  Not only is the answer ‘no' on the first count of being top quality, but it's ‘no' on the second count.  From the looks of the last half of the opening game, Brenden Motley was game, but that's about it.  He looked more like a panicked mouse caught in the middle of a windowless room full of cats when the light suddenly snapped on.  Only in the last few dwindling minutes of garbage time, against the Buckeye second and third string roster did young Mr. Motley get the pleasure of throwing his first college touchdown.  I think... I don't ever remember him throwing a touchdown in anything college related; Spring Games or Scrimmages.

The Tech coaching staff has a decently capable true quarterback available in the depth chart, a Redshirt Freshman (a sophomore to those of us who can actually count) in his first year of eligibility - Chris Durkin.  He was a young man who was personally recruited very heavily by Scot Loeffler, so why he is languishing in some limbo of 2 or 3 in the revised ‘Brewerless' 2 deep is beyond me at this point.

Brenden Motley is NOT a quarterback.  He was stuck into the position because he was the most gifted athlete at Christiansburg High School; but was really recruited for and starred in a defensive back's slot.  (Many players and parents have suffered through the taxi squad High School football meat grinder at some point in our lives. - That's another beef for another day.) Suffice it to say, through the year plus a game that Motley has backed up Brewer, (along with the half of a non-playing season in 2014 that he was listed as the starter) young Mr. Motley has played not one note of that tune called "Starting Quarterback".

Why or how do we end up in this mess?  This program has fielded some impressive QB talent (at the collegiate level at least).  Well that's what we all seem to remember in our key jingling, Sandman jumping, Hoky Poky dancing brain fog of the mists of the past.  Let's take a look at the program's two deep since 2000.  This chart is gleaned from the Official Program Media Guides and some Bowl Media Guides because what was, wasn't at the end, sometimes.

Big East Years:

Year

Starting QB

1st Backup QB

2nd Backup QB

Others

2000:

7 Michael Vick

11 Grant Noel

13 Dave Meyer

15 Jason Davis

2001:

11 Grant Noel

15 Jason Davis

2002:

11 Grant Noel

3 Bryan Randall

2003:

3 Bryan Randall

5 Marcus Vick

ACC Years:

Year

Starting QB

1st Backup QB

2nd Backup QB

Others

2004:

3 Bryan Randall

5 Marcus Vick

2005:

5 Marcus Vick

7 Sean Glennon

2006:

7 Sean Glennon

12 Cory Holt

3 Ike Whitaker

2007:

7 Sean Glennon/ Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor (listed as backup Fr. for Orange Bowl)

3 Ike Whitaker

2008:

7 Sean Glennon OR 5 Tyrod

Taylor (Tyrod is First in Depth by Season end and Orange Bowl)

2009:

5 Tyrod Taylor

12 JuJu Clayton

2010:

5 Tyrod Taylor

12 JuJu Clayton

3 Logan Thomas

2011:

3 Logan Thomas

6 Mark Leal

2012:

3 Logan Thomas

6 Mark Leal

2013:

3 Logan Thomas

6 Mark Leal

Trey Gresh

2014*:

9 Brenden Motley*

6 Mark Leal**

Trey Gresh

9 Brenden Motley

2014:

12 Michael Brewer

9 Brenden Motley

Jack Click

* Motley was moved to backup when Michael Brewer came to Virginia Tech

** Leal Left the program at the end of Spring 2014 to graduation

As you can see from the chart, and if you remember a little bit of history, Tyrod Taylor was not the starting quarterback in 2007.  He was a recruiting target in 2006.  He was the true freshman that defeated the odds; but that was 2007.  What about 2000 - 2006?  We saw a swap from the Michael Vick, to two years of Grant Noel backed up eventually by the next QB for two years Bryan Randall, and then followed in some sort of orderly fashion with Marcus Vick starting.

There were some very amazing years of post Mike Vick football, but they weren't blazing offensive seasons.  All of the above mentioned were competent on the field, and represented some good skill sets in the backfield, but think of the O-Lines we had, and the parade of great running backs both single and in tandem.  Of course the Marcus Vick meltdown off the field generated a real issue for the team.

Eventually Sean Glennon took over the position in 2006 with no real backup in Cory Holt, and Glennon struggled.  He had good basic quarterback skills, but the Offensive line of that era was shaky.  Glennon played like he had his feet in buckets of concrete.  He just couldn't sense the rush, or move in the pocket enough to avoid getting clobbered for loss after loss and hurry after hurry.  After (During, actually) the LSU game of 2007, with absolutely no one left to turn to, Tyrod Taylor was put onto the field as a true Freshman, and went on to become one of the (if not the) greatest quarterbacks in Hokie history, not just the Beamer Era.  I'd even hazard that he was better than old pro Don Strock.  Taylor's introduction wasn't as smooth and seamless as our misty memories would like to have it.

Something organizational happened during the Tyrod era, especially after Glennon failed spectacularly early in the 2008 season - and Tyrod's Red Shirt was burned.   What also seemed to go up with it was any thought of systemic recruitment and grooming of a replacement Quarterback.  If there was a systemic method or scheme for bringing a highly recruited freshman along for two years behind a two year start sequence for an upper classman, then it blew away in the ash of Tyrod's practice squad jersey.

The next quarterback looked so promising; Logan Thomas became the starter, and simultaneously the "Logan Thomas Experiment".  You all see, Thomas wanted to play tight end as he graduated from his high school.  This was the era of the Spread Option, the huge Quarterback with a cannon arm, like Rothlisberger or Tim Tebow down in Gainesville.  It seems the coaching staff thought that since Logan had played Taxi squad QB in High School that they'd talk him into committing to Tech as a QB and not a tight end.

And then everything just ground to a halt.  What little was left of the groom and teach method was left under populated by recruited talent.  Even the recruitment of Quarterbacks seemed dry up.  Mark Leal never really panned out because he actually never played much.  We paid for that mistake against UCLA at the end of the 2013 season.  What's so frustrating is that the loss of Brewer, has proven that the lesson was not taken to heart for the game plan and the playbook.  We had a backup that was wildly incompatible in playing style to the starter.  Nothing in any plan can account for that incongruity.

There is a swirling argument as to who should replace Brewer.   (Who, with up to eight weeks off the field I just don't see coming back this season.) The depth chart says that Brenden Motley is the next QB in line to take the field.  Motley is not a true QB, and he didn't play one on TV, either.

We have several other people on the roster, Chris Durkin - who should be the #2 because he actually is a quarterback with a Three or four star high school rating (24/7 rated him a 3-star, Scout.com a 4-star), and was heavily recruited by Loeffler.  This slap might just have him going out the door behind Andrew Ford who decided to find some place that looked like he might actually have a decent chance to play.  Jack Click is the scout team QB, and I doubt he'll even get a whiff of the turf on game day.

Finally we come to true freshman Dwayne Lawson (and his special coach) as the "new and shiny" guy.  He's got lots of stars behind his name, though I'm not so sure that he's the new Tyrod.  A red shirt for a season, personal discipline, and some needed skill development might help to avoid any calamities.  My "seeing over a half century of hundreds of quarterbacks" brain tells me that young Mr. Lawson needs some work; and putting him in too early could ruin him.

Then again, he could be great.  I know that if I am Dirkin and I get passed over for this chance to start this season, I am looking at going to the AD's office in hopes of transferring.  Unless he really wants a degree from Virginia Tech, he might be better off getting a chance to play at another university.

The bottom line on this one is that Virginia Tech has had 15 years of proof that it has absolutely no idea of how to develop a quarterback from recruitment to depth chart positioning.  We ran into Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor.  We were lucky with the game management skills of Grant Noel and Bryan Randall.  However, we have suffered some serious hits with behavior, poor play, and mismatched skill sets with all of the other QB's except Brewer... Who showed flashes of he could have been in 2015 on Labor Day.  If this team really wants to stay in the top 25; if it wants to avoid sliding into some sort of limbo between the big show and the mid majors; it absolutely must develop a new offensive long and short term strategic method.  Right now, the Hokies are showing that they have neither.

The Furman Game is next.  Let's see how we do, and what sort of Offense we generate.