The Series Gets Started
No one said this season was going to be an easy review. In fact, this series of reviews might be the biggest complete basket of fudge since we’ve been writing for the site. It’s six weeks before kickoff, and it’s time to talk about some football. Jay has started his annual season projection, and there are going to be some folks arguing about his Part 1. That’s good, we all need to get the blood flowing after the long break.
So, that drops the roster reviews into Bryan’s and my laps. The games are one thing (well 12 really), but those games have to be played by someone and coached as well. There are some returning players, but folks, there are some real holes that are going to have to be filled. The problem is that we are holding onto the classic definition of a “pig in a poke”. (“Poke” is short for poke-sack which is a heavy-duty cloth bag tied up with a draw string at the open end.) We know there is a team there, somewhere but just exactly is going into that team is largely up in the air.
Given that set of realities, we are dividing up the squads within the team so that both of us get a chance to add our two or three cents worth to the betting pool on just exactly how we think these position groups are going to perform. Bryan is taking the Offensive Line, the Linebackers, and Defensive Backs. I’ll be covering the Defensive Line, Running Backs, Receivers (we are combining the TEs and WRs), Specialists and the Quarterbacks.
The Primary Problem to Solve
Today, we get started with the last item on my list, but arguably the most important position in the entire set of roster spreadsheet set, Quarterback. Look, Virginia Tech hasn’t had a first-rate starting Quarterback since Michael Brewer threw his last pass in the last bowl game of his career. That’s unfortunate because there have been several players, since then, who could have qualified for “first-rate” status – Hendon Hooker comes to mind immediately. But Virginia Tech’s “Ace QB” roster is mighty short over the last 30 years and consists mostly of Jim Druckenmiller, Michael Vick, Tyrod Taylor in his Junior and Senior seasons, and maybe Michael Brewer when he was healthy. There were also really good serviceable collegiate level quarterbacks, Bryan Randall and Maurice DeShazo come to mind, but no one stands out as more than a one or two season flash.
The problem has always been that Virginia Tech’s Offense has been consistently unsophisticated and tragically underperforming for nearly a generation. Even in the heyday years the offense was never much to write home to Mommy about. It always relied heavily on the physical talents of a few key players and scoring just enough points to win close games that the defense kept in check. If the QB was good and had some good receivers and running backs the rather pedestrian affair managed to get the job done and a few folks drafted into the NFL. As far as scheme, game planning, and play calling, Tech’s “Theory of Offense” managed to be run the ball twice throw on third down and do that until stopped by the goal line or a 4th down.
Look, in the “old days” of college football that formula, and a great defense and surprising special teams netted ten-win seasons and bowl games. It’s not those days anymore. Offenses that do not plan to score 35-points or more, every single game, are not going to get much further than a booger bowl and a bag of goodies for showing up around the holidays.
Hopeful for Something New, That Works
Before we launch into the charts for players, let’s look at the critical two coaches who will have the most to say about how the 2022 Hokie Offense runs, and in particular how the subject of this article will be managed.
The situation as of December 31, 2021, within the Hokie coaching staff offices was largely the chaos of people packing boxes and moving out. The New Era Pinstripe Bowl appearance, though a grace of some measure was probably more of a curse since it might have been better just walking away from the entire mess of the last three seasons and spending some serious “reflection time” sorting it out. The team that took the field in Yankee Stadium was stripped of major players either by choice or circumstance.
Connor Blumrick was brave and had a winning attitude to finish out the season with largely nothing more than three Read-Option running plays and a couple of pass plays that he’d managed to practice enough to not just look like another running back behind the center. The loss to Maryland in that bowl had to have been one of the lowest points in the locker room since the massive loss to Duke, at home a couple of years earlier. It was for entirely different reasons, but this one was the reality that the team had no offense, and no head coach.
The Offensive Coordinator is Basically a Rookie
The irony is that the new Offensive Coordinator picked by the new Head Coach got his coaching start at Maryland. It’s only been 12 years since Tyler Bowen - Football Coach - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) was a graduate assistant there. About a third of that time was at the FCS level. Bowen did spend four seasons with Penn State, a one season stint before a jog back through Maryland and then to Fordham ran him in a little Northeast circle but he never cracked the OC ranks (only managing one season as Co-OC at Fordham and Penn State for one season each.
In that mix, he made an acquaintance of rookie Head Coach Brent Pry, and the opportunity to run an offence in upper-level college football evidently appealed to Coach Bowen who was hired away from his one season professional stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars (Tight Ends). So, Tyler Bowen arrives in Blacksburg as a complete cypher. He’s never been a solo-offensive coordinator, and he has a head coach who hasn’t done that either. That set of factors, alone, has caused the sports media analysts to pretty much write off Virginia Tech’s Pry Era opening effort as a par, at best. There is just nothing to go on… and we mean nothing.
The Quarterback Coach isn’t a Rookie but Power 5 isn’t There Either
Brad Glenn - Football Coach - Virginia Tech Athletics (hokiesports.com) There is nothing short about Brad Glenn’s career. He’s coached at the high school and FCS/G5 collegiate levels. He’s also coming from a stopover at the Sun Belt’s Georgia State, but is dragging a resume that goes back to 1995. Glenn has managed to stick for more than a few years in more than a couple of locations. This is a good sign and good news for a coaching assistant. I heard one GA talking on the sideline to another in a pregame with the concept that he should have invested in U-Haul since he was being told that if he wanted a career in coaching, he’d be needing one, “a whole lot”. Suffice it to say that Glenn’s most prolific stay was at Appalachian State during their FCS glory years.
Again, we have a completely opaque situation. Neither coach has talked very much about what sort of offense they plan on running. Everyone’s guess is some form of Bowling Green Read-Option with a shake toward professional level calling and execution. It’s just a guess, though. There weren’t too many hints at the Spring Game. We did see some drive blocking, a few intermediate routes and some deep throws. The running plays were pedestrian, at best, and certainly too simple for scouting reports, other than some effort. We’ll address the running back situation in the next article. But this is the major rub that most college teams have, and certainly the Fuente Era team had. Is the Pry Era Quarterback going to be a Quarterback or a Running Back who throws the ball now and then?
There is absolutely no clue as to the basic “Theory of Offense” from this staff. The prior staffs had none, either. Well, the last staff had one but never developed the talent to run it, and certainly didn’t recruit it, either. It would be refreshing to see some level of “what we want to do” in the discussion chain, but the coaching interviews and interactions have been nearly all from the HC position with little detailed interaction between the assistants and the media. What we have is a situation that, barring some secret sauce somewhere, is a complete unknown.
The Quarterback Room for 2022
There are five and a half quarterbacks listed on the roster for the start of the 2022 Fall practice season. We’ll get to the “half” situation in a paragraph or two, but right now the quarterback room in Jamerson is not stocked with first rate major talent or experience. It’s not that the supposed #1 and #2 are unskilled; it’s more like they are both transfers from problematic situations and still have to demonstrate that they have stepped up a level of performance.
Let’s look at the chart for the QB Room and do some analysis.
The Virginia Tech 2022 Quarterback Room
|Number||Name||Position||Height||Weight||Class||Depth Projection||Transfer From|
|Number||Name||Position||Height||Weight||Class||Depth Projection||Transfer From|
|1||Jason Brown||QB||6' 2"||229||Gr.||2-1||South Carolina|
|4||Connor Blumrick||QB/ATH||6' 5"||215||Sr.||N/A||Texas A&M|
|6||Grant Wells||QB||6' 2"||203||R-So.||1-2||Marshall|
|15||Tahj Bullock||QB||6' 4"||228||R-Fr.||3|
|19||Ben Locklear||QB||6' 5"||220||R-Fr.||3+|
|7||Devin Farrell||QB||6' 0"||192||Fr.||Scout|
The chart is arranged in projected jersey number order, but the competition is definitely not over. The presumed #1, Grant Wells is not officially the starting QB and that decision will unlikely be taken until the pressure mounts within the team to identify and solidify the starter so that the first three games can be prepped and planned.
The #1 QB speculation seems to be centered on Grant Wells, the 2-season starter for Marshall over the crippled 2020 season and a full season behind center in 2021. Wells shows the promise of being able to sling it around, but there is an inky blot on his 2021 season that concerns more than a few Hokie fans. He’s pick prone, tossing the ball to the wrong hat 13 times in 2021, and 9 times in 2020’s abbreviated outing. As we saw in the Spring Game, Wells is big and fast enough to operate in a mobile pocket situation, but getting him to settle down and focus on making better decisions with the ball will be an ongoing worry.
The #2 QB is still thought to be South Carolina transfer Jason Brown. Both players bring some strengths to the table. Brown is a sturdy BG-R/O type quarterback and 20 pounds heavier at 6’ 2” than Wells. His seasons stats are not particularly convincing given that his last complete season was in 2019. That season he only threw the ball away 6 times. His 2021 season was disappointing, and the South Carolina coaching change didn’t help much. Brown’s transfer out of Columbia was quickly executed after the season wrapped up. He was at Tech, along with Wells for the introductions to the Pry staff.
Quarterback Statistics for the Room
The Playoffs and Payoffs
In either case, there is a style difference that cannot be discounted when play calling and game planning goes into full motion. If Brown starts, he presents a real running threat to make the Read-Option function better. He’s not carting a huge passing reputation, but given the chance can throw the ball effectively. If Wells starts, he brings a bit of the “gunslinger” mentality to the line of scrimmage/huddle. He’s quick, and throws a really beautiful pass both short, and deep. His two dime strikes in the Spring Game showed everyone that. The questions will be throwing dime strikes to the wrong jersey and can it be fixed?
The Wild Turkey
So, why is Connor Blumrick on this chart? He’s not going to be the starting QB, that’s for sure Some folks thought that he’d just be moved to Wide Receiver or H-Back and allow him to develop that role for the season and a shot at the next level in that skill set. The Roster is listing him in the QB room, and as a slash back. Or QB/ATH as it notes. No one is pegging Connor as a brilliant passer. We actually really don’t know if he can actually run a passing offense or not, because he was never given one to run. What Connor Blumrick brings to the table is a set of physical and mental strengths that make him a “wild turkey” in the backfield. He could line up at shotgun QB. He could run slot patterns, mobile tight end routes, wheels out of the backfield under the zone, and he can certainly run the ball, too. Blumrick could be the pure fun in this offense, and provide some critical surprise factors for defenses. Dealing with someone who can be three different positions on one snap is a defensive coach’s nightmare.
The number 3 quarterbacks on the depth chart are going to be Tahj Bullock, Ben Locklear, and Devin Farrell. Bullock is the classic R/O quarterback and has little or no real on field experience to date. Bullock and Locklear are BIG at 6’ 4”/230ish and 6’ 5”/220ish respectively. These are classic Read-Option QB sizes, and from what Bullock has shown on
the field for Spring he can push the ball down the field on several levels. Both are counted as Redshirt-Freshmen so there is no hurry to get either on the field in critical situations. Freshman Farrell is a classic smallish pocket QB with some Wilsonian traits that will have to impress the new staff. I suspect that he’ll be a redshirt scout team QB, especially for systems that field QBs in that size range.
The Lament and the Reality
The lamentations are slowly building about lack of nearly everything in the quarterback room from P5/FBS rookie coaches to non-spectacular transfers with various glaring weaknesses. When the best, and most highly praised player in your QB room isn’t really going to play Quarterback much, there are just going to be questions and doubts. The reality is that we just don’t have a clue. Who wins the competition? Can each QB’s flaws be fixed and/or minimized? What sort of offense will the Hokies run behind either QB? Is Hokie Nation going to be pleasantly surprised or resigned to more of the same offensive struggles that have plagued this team for decades?
No one really knows, do they? What do you say?
What’s the Quarterback situation, barring injury, on September 2nd?
This poll is closed
Grant Wells starts, and his targeting system seems fixed, so he becomes the 2022 #1
Wells restarts the pick machine, and Brown comes in to run the Read-Option for what looks like the 2016 effort.
We see some of Wells, and some of Brown, and the only flashy play ends up being Connor Blumrick and the reappearance of the "Wild Turkey"
It won’t matter much; this season is an offensive write off if the Offensive Line isn’t there.