Virginia Tech head football coach Brent Pry has an important decision to make that could have major implications on not only the rest of the season, but the fan base, too.
Will Pry go with Grant Wells — if healthy — or Kyron Drones at quarterback on Saturday against Marshall?
Wells missed last week’s game at Rutgers with an injury. And since VT is so quiet about injuries, no one is quite sure when Wells will return. With Wells out, Drones earned his first career start and, despite the result, actually played quite well.
If Wells is healthy for Saturday’s game, it would be a homecoming for him. He played the first three seasons of his college career at Marshall. However, even if healthy, Wells shouldn’t see the field again for the Hokies.
Before we delve into why, this isn’t personal with Wells. Look, at this point, with 37 career games, we know who Wells is — and isn’t. What’s the upside for Pry bringing Wells back for another start? It’s not like he’s helping the Hokies win. Again, that’s not all on Wells, there are plenty of reasons why the Hokies aren’t winning. That’s for another time.
In Drones’ first start against Rutgers, he posted modest numbers. Drones completed 19 of 32 passes for 190 yards with one touchdown and interception. He also gave the running game life, carrying the ball 22 times for 74 yards. He was sacked four times, which also cuts into the rushing numbers.
As a team, the Hokies rushed for 129 yards. Not great, no, but certainly a lot better than the first two weeks overall. We realize some of Tech’s run issues may not be completely corrected this season unless players improve, which can happen. But the running game’s struggles aren’t necessarily scheme-related. Drones provided a boost here.
Wells won the starting job over Drones because he allegedly had a better grasp of the passing game. Going back and looking at the first two weeks, the Hokies left points on the field.
Drones’ ability as a dual-threat quarterback allows offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen to run more of the scheme he presumably wants to run. Remember, it was Bowen who went to Baylor to convince Drones to transfer to the Hokies.
Last season, we often stressed that if the Hokies were going to lose — and they lost plenty — they needed to play more young players. You need to find out what you have and hope that young players can gain valuable playing experience and improve. Some players are already maxed out and you know who they are — for better or worse.
That’s where we are with Drones. Is he going to struggle some? Sure. Is he going to make big plays? Absolutely. In the one start vs. Rutgers, Drones showed poise in the pocket. He looked confident. Why can’t Bowen build the offense around the plays Drones is comfortable with and expand the list each week? The RPO game should be a true threat with Drones under center.
Bowen, who has coached tight ends, should also find more targets for young tight ends Dae’Quan Wright and Benji Gosnell. Both can make things happen after the catch, too. While wide receiver Ali Jennings remains out, Tech should have Jaylin Lane back for this week. Drones also appeared to develop a nice rapport with Quan Felton last week, who could be a mismatch on the outside.
This is Pry’s team. He can do what he likes and feels is best for the team. But is bringing Wells back going to win you more games? From what we’ve seen, it’s doubtful. Again, not all on Wells. The Hokies need to think of the potential rewards of starting Drones. If he hits, you have your guy for at least two years. If he doesn't, you can eventually turn to freshman Pop Watson. The 2023 Hokies don’t appear to be a bowl-eligible team with or without Wells. So it’s time to move forward with Drones and do everything as a coaching staff to support him.
If Pry trots Wells out there on Saturday — if healthy — Virginia Tech fans will not be happy. And while Pry doesn’t owe anything to the fans in regards to a personnel decision, they’d be right in this instance.