It’s that time. The uncomfortable moment where the 800 pound Hokie Bird in the living room needs to be addressed and that’s the 2018 Quarterback situation. Nearly every Hokie football fanatic that I speak with has the exact same observation; “who else but Josh Jackson starts?” We have gone over this several times, and more recently the can of worms really presented itself as a can of something else, when JJ ended up in some sort of tangle up with school. It all came out for the good, but there is a more telling and difficult issue present; we are one injury away from disaster.
It’s not difficult to see why that thought occurs. Josh Jackson played a really solid third of a season last year, starting with the West Virginia game, which was a pleasant surprise, and ending with the first half of the Clemson game. From the 2nd half of that September 30th evening, JJ seemed to regress, very slowly from a very surprising “Very Good” redshirt freshman to pretty much what you’d expect from a hurriedly pressed into service rookie. It all culminated with that 10-0 shutout of the Wahoos, and then the bowl game against Oklahoma State proved that by the end of 2017, the offense was just not capable of generating consistent drives.
The “red zone” was more like the” red tide zone”. We just couldn’t get the ball over the goal line after executing crisp fluid drives; right up to the 15 to 20. It was like the offense suddenly waded into knee deep surf. Receivers couldn’t get open, the zone blocking didn’t create anything much in the way of inside holes, and for some reason during most of the season the team exhibited a right short side of the field bias that ended up tanking play after play into piles of people.
I do not know if that right side bias was a play calling error or just a player generated systemic bias that eventually our opponents were prepared for. The wide side of the field was treated almost like it was poison. The concept of running a broad sweep from the right hash to the left corner of the end zone, from the 5 yard line didn’t seem to register. We just wouldn’t do it, and paid dearly for the hole in the play book.
Jackson’s arm strength was a serious issue the entire season. The fall away fade pass (a very low percentage throw) kept being called like someone was going to be surprised by a balloon being tossed to someone out in the flat 15 yards down field. Of course more defensive backs started to get wise to that drippy drill and picked some off. Josh Jackson, at the end of the season, was routinely throwing off of his back foot, and had no ability to get the ball out to the 20-30 yard range on a rope. The deep throw to loosen up the coverage was a non-starter.
Besides the passing game, you’ve seen this from me before, Jackson was completely unable to “sell the cheeto”. Whatever they call it now, the “cheeto” is Fuente’s bread and butter play, it’s the primary RPO in the offense and depends on the quarterback making the correct read, the primary hot receiver being ready, and the running back knowing what his key has done. To “Sell it” the third part of the option team is the quarterback keeper. After Clemson, no one on our schedule believed that Josh Jackson could put more than a yard or two up on that play, even if he read it correctly, which most times he did not.
So all of that gets right to the heart of what bugs me about the quarterback roster for 2018; the “biggest” word in any sport, “IF”. IF Josh Jackson has buckled down and learned the offense in the offseason the coach might be more comfortable making in-game adjustments. That malfunction killed us against Clemson and Georgia Tech, and to a certain extent even UVa. IF Jackson has worked on his passing technique (footwork), and his arm strength (delivery) maybe the coaches will open things up a bit, and run some of the more complex option patterns that I have seen in the old Fuente play books. IF Cornelsen and Fuente open up the field and stop driving into the narrow right corner maybe they can actually score touchdowns instead of chancy -4 pointers (field goals). There are just a big pile of Ifs there. Of course similar lists of “ifs” are going to be heaped up on every lightly experienced quarterback, this season.
This means that Josh Jackson has a chance to get serious, and step up his game from his less than stellar final 2/3rds of 2017. Remember he wasn’t horrible, and tended to make few mistakes, but that’s just managing, not leading. It certainly isn’t demonstrating the daring that separates the star players from everyone else who shows up and “contributes”. The water bearers contribute. The guy that keeps the game balls for the refs contributes. We need more than just contribution. Some of those throws need to go to a receiver instead of out of bounds to avoid the loss. More of those plays need to be executed five or even ten yards down field instead of one yard behind the line of scrimmage.
Virginia Tech Hokies Fall 2018 Quarterbacks
|QB - Pocket
|Talent enough to start - but rumors of "issues" persist
|QB - Pocket
|Barring an injury he's the Starter until Patterson is ready
|QB - Pocket
|Chase is a great young man and a good scout team leader
|QB - Run
|Unless he's gotten better with QB - he might be better off playing defense
|Quincy Patterson II
|QB - Dual
|Future designated #1
|QB - Run
|Speculative based on scouting
As to the remainder of the list, there is some interesting talent, and we’ll have to see how they shape up during practice, which starts Monday August 6th. We are hearing things and there are other issues in the mix. There are realities in play, and capabilities that haven’t necessarily panned out.
You can see the chart, and where I think folks will be on that final roster (always with the caveat that injuries or performance will change everything). Suffice it to say, I really don’t think that Josh Jackson was ever in danger of being replaced by anyone for 2018. Patterson is brilliant and more the body and capability type of “Fuente” quarterback. He’s also an STEM student, and a true freshman with no experience at this level. I’d rather see him learn to be a freshman in school, learn the offense, and build his conditioning and strength. If he was to be needed, we’d be stepping into a repeat of 2017.
Ryan Willis was expected to challenge Jackson hard, and seemed like he was pushing that boundary in the spring session. How he fits into the depth chart is currently a guess at number 2 based more on spring and less on fumes and fat grapes on the vine. One hopes that he’s fixed or worked out whatever issues that he had, because we are going to need a good backup.
Hendon Hooker might be the number three (or two), but as we saw last season, Hooker was used more as a variation of the old Wild Turkey that of a master of the Fuente Playbook. I hope we get some good garbage time in the William and Mary/ODU games. Both Willis and Hooker need some time on the field to see if they can operate the full offense.
***UPDATE*** Chase Mummau’s name has evaporated from the roster. He has evidently left the program, but there is no indication in any social media as to why or where how he intends to finish out his academic work. We certainly wish him all the best and hope that he checks in to tell Hokie Nation what he’s going to be doing.
The remainder of the names on the QB roster will be jockeying for position and testing out where they’ll fit in the organization as time goes on.
Harrumph… cough… cough... I suppose it’s conclusion time. The truth is that I worried more about the 2018 quarterback situation far more than the defensive secondary, and I actually really wasn’t concerned about the linebacker situation either. Bud Foster has been cobbling solid defenses together out of inexperienced underclassmen for his entire career. That leaves me with the single issue that will remain hanging until we see if it is actually fixed. That will be somewhere around the time the team steps on the field to play ODU or Duke. It’d better be sorted out by then or the ACC schedule is likely to be very disappointing.
Josh Jackson, Jr. should be the starter. It looks like he will be, and there is just not a whole lot to say more than that.
How are we going to fare at QB?
This poll is closed
Josh Jackson steps up, plays well to start and settles lots of nerves
Fall practice shows issues and the situation is unsettled going into the FSU game
Jackson starts well, and then fades like last season
Fuente never really finds a #One for 2018, so ends up in a holding pattern for Patterson