All right, I have gone through 1,534 pictures, and chopped out slightly over 100 for the various sets that will be posted over the next few days. I just wanted to get you some impressions of what I saw at the Spring game and maybe tease a few photos.
First, the quarterback situation isn’t. It’s not a “situation”. It’s a competition for the starting position in which the #2 has bubbled up to the surface and that’s Ryan Willis. Josh Jackson is still the number 1 Quarterback on the roster. The fact that the roster is pretty much pencil at this point is completely normal and expected. I am sure that the coaches are going to want to see what happens with Quincy Patterson when he shows up in the Fall; but I really don’t expect that his arrival will impact this year’s depth chart unless there is a major miracle or disaster.
Both Jackson and Willis struggled a bit in the first half, but that wasn’t necessarily their fault. Remember, there is no fancy “stuff” in Spring ball. I counted fewer than five formations, and most of the plays that I saw were various combinations of Run-Pass-Options. What happened on the field was pretty much dictated by what the defense reacted to and how the offense read the keys. We saw the first, second, and third offenses alternate with a few position swaps here and there, but generally the 1’s played, the 2’s played, and then later in the 2nd half, the 3’s got some opportunities to get some reps in. Willis had a couple of really pretty passes, with two touchdowns one a sideline bomb that was a perfect over the shoulder in the bucket jump shot, and then a nice crossing pattern to Jalen Holston out of the backfield. The first one was an RPO that Willis said that he got a good read on, and I suspect the second was also an RPO.
Willis threw into a couple of bad situations that he got lucky to have just knocked down. Jackson’s interception was an unfortunate ricochet off of Sean Savoy’s chest/shoulder pads. Both handled the run plays and their respective offenses pretty well. Neither QB did anything egregiously dumb, nor did the situation between their roster statuses change much. What we did see is that Hendon Hooker is a definite number 3, and his field work was almost completely dedicated to the running game. We’ll see what transpires with Hooker once Patterson shows up. I don’t know if he’s going to want to be “clipboard guy”.
There was nothing surprising about the running back situation; McClease is still much better slashing outside on zone reads. Jalen Holston is still the “power back” in training, but is also demonstrating that he can get downfield to catch passes. His touchdown was a real highlight of the game. Coleman Fox is going to be seen more this season. He scored a touchdown on the ground, and ran the ball off the zone reads and counters very well.
The receivers (such as there were with all of the hold outs) were competent. Savoy’s bobble that cost JJ a first down and a pick, on a nice throw (though it was a tight coverage situation), was unfortunate. Phil Patterson made some stand out plays, and we saw some solid blocking work by Dalton Keene (though they really need to get the ball to him more often).
On the defensive side, we saw some big step ups on the line. New defensive end Emmanuel Belmar was in the backfield so much that I was beginning to think that he was looking to switch sides. He got some face time at the press conference; getting some love, especially for his safety that was set up by a beautiful punt from Oscar Bradburn. The D-Line’s two deep is going to look good this Fall. They didn’t lose much with the departure of Tim Settle.
The Linebackers were nearly invisible, except that they did pretty well. They made few mistakes, and kept the run down to a dull roar. It’s difficult to say how they’ll react to running quarterbacks since the no-contact jerseys were a feature on all the QBs.
This game was all about stretching out, getting people challenged, and allowing the newer players to get a feel for the spirit of a live game. My guess is that we are going to see all of the Fuente Spring games played and staged exactly as we have seen them. This year, as in the past two they have been basically controlled scrimmages where the coaches were looking for specific things and those things would not be readily apparent to the fans.
It was an absolutely stunningly beautiful day in Blacksburg on Saturday, and with no injuries reported, and no big controversies settled or started, Justin Fuente and staff close out the Spring practice session with a month of work to chew on, and we in Hokie Nation have to bide our time watching baseball, and counting the days until Fall practice starts in August.
This team is going to be just as good as Fuente’s prior two teams, and might even be a bit better. Nothing was settled and I really didn’t think that it would be.