When Jerod Evans committed to Virginia Tech in December 2015, head coach Justin Fuente thought—or hoped—have the quarterback situation resolved for two years. Well, things went so well in 2016 that Evans, a junior-college transfer, opted to forgo his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
Evans completed 64 percent of his passes for over 3,500 yards with 29 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Evans also led Tech in rushing with 846 yards and 12 touchdowns.
On the surface, the Hokies have a huge hole at quarterback. Evans set numerous school records and was essentially VT’s go-to running back anytime the team needed to move the ball on the ground. However, Fuente believes in his quarterback options for 2017.
Joshua Jackson, Herndon Hooker, Ryan Willis, A.J. Bush
There is plenty of youth, talent and athleticism in this position group for 2017. Jackson, a redshirt freshman from Saline, Michigan, almost beat out Evans for the job last summer. He impressed Fuente with not only his knowledge of the offense but his athleticism and unflappable nature under center.
A coach’s son, Jackson has an advanced feel for the passing game. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he hits receivers in stride which allows for more yards after the catch. With Evans, he sometimes struggled to go through progressions and rarely led his receivers. That made it tougher on an excellent group of receivers to get yards after the catch.
Jackson is the leading contender to start against West Virginia this September.
Bush, who started his career at Nebraska before playing one year at a community college, was recruited by Fuente late in the process once the coach knew Evans was gone. Like Evans, Bush is a big passer but is much more raw as a passer. He’s purely depth for the Hokies this fall.
Willis, a Kansas transfer, also figures into the mix as a backup. Willis, at 6’4”, 215 pounds, has good size and possesses experience. His overall numbers were a bit underwhelming, though. Willis passed for 12 touchdowns during his time at Kansas, however, he was also picked off 17 times. He’s a nice option to have around for a young quarterback room.
Hooker is the wild card. The Hokies loved him so much they helped get him eligible for this spring. Did Fuente think he was a legitimate option to start in 2017?
Fuente saw this as a grand opportunity to get his future quarterback onto the campus early and get some experience. Jackson worked the spring game last season as a true freshman and it was a valuable experience for him. He almost beat out Evans for the top job last fall. Yes, it was that close.
That’s why Jackson should get most of the reps this spring. After all, the Hokies are replacing their top two receivers from a year ago. Jackson needs the experience and Fuente understands this.
This spring should be all about the Hokies getting Jackson comfortable to take over the top spot this spring.