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Virginia Tech football: Justin Fuente feels good about the passing game entering 2021

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Fuente says with the possible exception of 2016, this is as good as he has felt about the passing game during his time in Blacksburg.

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NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Duke Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season, Braxton Burmeister will open as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback. Unlike last year, Burmeister won’t be looking over his shoulder.

Burmeister started the season-opener against N.C. State in 2020 and led the Hokies to an impressive 45-24 win. While he didn’t have eye-popping stats, he didn’t need to, as Virginia Tech’s offensive line dominated a good Wolfpack front.

Burmeister would go on to start four games in 2020, going 3-1 as a starter. Hendon Hooker, the 2019 starter, missed the first two games and returned to the lineup early in an October loss to North Carolina after Burmeister struggled. The former Oregon transfer would have to wait two months before he received significant playing time again, and he did not disappoint.

He entered the game against Clemson and connected on 10 of his 12 passing attempts. Burmeister would follow that up with a terrific performance the following week in a season-ending win over Virginia.

After the season, Hooker and Quincy Patterson transferred, but Burmeister chose to remain in Blacksburg.

Head coach Justin Fuente is certainly glad Burmeister stayed and now believes the Hokies have as competent of a passing game as any season since he arrived as head coach in 2016.

“I feel better about us throwing the ball right now since I’ve been here,” Fuente said last week at the ACC Kickoff, per Andy Bitter of The Athletic. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to throw the ball 60 times a game. I feel better about it. With the exception of in 2016, I knew there were two guys we could just chuck it up there, and they were going to catch it more times than not with Bucky (Hodges) and Isaiah (Ford).”

The 2016 season was the year Jerod Evans was under center for the Hokies. While Evans was solid, it was those receivers who made the difference. The Hokies were in love with the fades and jump balls that season, and Ford and Hodges came down with most of them.

In recent seasons, the Hokies haven’t been the most consistent passing team for various reasons. Don’t blame the pass-catchers, as the Hokies have had — and currently have — some good ones.

Now, Fuente hopes Burmeister just gets the ball in the hands of Tre Turner, James Mitchell, Tayvion Robinson, Jaden Payoute and Raheem Blackshear and lets them do the work.

If the Hokies can stay healthy in 2021, they could be strong on offense despite losing Christian Darrisaw and Khalil Herbert. Burmeister is a true dual-threat passer and one of the top athletes on the team. However, a key to the Hokies — and Burmeister — staying healthy is limiting the quarterback runs. Burmeister isn’t as big as Hooker or Patterson and battled some injuries last season.

Virginia Tech's key on offense in 2021 is the offensive line and the running game. If the Hokies successfully replace Darrisaw and Herbert, they have a chance to be much better than people realize this fall.