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Virginia Tech football: Fuente has mismanaged the QB position

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The Hokies should have let the young kids play more.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech QB Ryan Willis
Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

When Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente named Josh Jackson the starting quarterback before the season, no one blinked. It was clearly the correct decision. Then Jackson went on the road and led the Hokies to a dominant win over Florida State and everyone thought this team was going to be surprisingly good in 2018 despite the inexperience.

Boy, was that assumption wrong.

And it’s not about Jackson. Fuente naming him the starter was absolutely the right decision with Ryan Willis and a pair of freshmen (Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson) behind Jackson.

However, we were all wrong about this team. About how good it was because Florida State was so bad it made everyone believe this team was going to be a contender. The warning signs were clear. The youth all over the roster was the first indication it wasn’t going to be a 10-win season.

But as the season progressed and Jackson went down with a leg injury, it opened the door for Willis. As far as Jackson is concerned, he had his moments, but he wasn’t making this team better. While he is a capable signal caller on a good team, he isn’t the type of player to elevate the play of those around him. And that’s ok.

Willis has had his moments. At times, he looks like a capable ACC quarterback, while at other times frustrating everyone with his inaccuracy or ability scan the field. He’s certainly gotten better, but the inconsistencies remain.

So, when the Hokies began the four-game slide that they are on now, why didn’t Fuente turn to one of his freshmen? Ok, I get he wants to be able to keep the redshirt year for Patterson. I would as well. That’s smart. But why did he bring in Patterson to just run the ball a few times in a handful of games?

If it’s about experience, let the kid play meaningful snaps within that four-game redshirt window. Let him throw the ball. Let him run the offense. I mean, it’s not like a few mistakes will cost this team a shot at the College Football Playoff.

Now, let’s turn to Hooker. A redshirt freshman from Greensboro, Hooker was a critical member of the 2017 signing class. He enrolled early and took a redshirt last season. He got some time in the blowout win over William & Mary and had a long, electrifying touchdown run down the sideline. The run had Lane Stadium excited as well as his teammates.

Since that run, Hooker has remained on the bench despite the injury to Jackson and the team’s overall struggles. Why? There have been reports he’s struggled to grasp the offense and read the field. That’s expected. He’s a young player.

And this is not to knock Willis. He’s played well enough to keep the job. However, the team is losing and you have some potentially serious talent behind him. Find out what you have. Allow the kids to sink or swim. You have the option of a redshirt with Patterson. Let him gain some valuable time and then shut him down to preserve the redshirt.

Then, get Hooker some time. Call some of those run packages you used for Patterson with Hooker. He has elite speed. Bring him in to run and surprise the defense with a throw or two. And why not bring him in during the second half of the Pitt nightmare? Not sure if Fuente has noticed but this team is terrible in the second half. Let the kids have some experience. The season is already lost.

This season, especially the past few weeks, should have been about finding out what you have in some of the young players. And there’s not a more important position than quarterback.

Count Fuente’s mismanagement of the game’s most important position as another one of the mistakes that have plagued Virginia Tech in 2018.