Hendon Hooker, Caleb Farley Shine in Virginia Tech’s Spring Game

Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit
2017.04.22. Spring Game at Virginia Tech (Hokies). Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA. VT Head Coach: Justin Fuente.
If Hendon Hooker (2) wasn’t a legitimate candidate to start at quarterback for Virginia Tech next year, he certainly is now. (All photos by Ivan Morozov)

Blacksburg, VA — Virginia Tech football will enter next season with plenty of holes to fill on offense, but the performances of their true-freshmen at the Spring Game on Saturday should alleviate some of those concerns.

Hendon Hooker, Caleb Farley and Dalton Keene all played well on Saturday, putting up numbers and making big plays. Hooker completed 10 of 11 pass attempts for 115 yards and a touchdown and an interception, while Farley and Keene combined for six receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.

Hooker, who’s embroiled in a three-way quarterback battle with Josh Jackson and AJ Bush, looked particularly impressive in his touchdown drive. Hooker went 5-5 passing for 78 yards and didn’t force throws. Instead, he took what the defense gave him, even checking down to Keene on multiple occasions. Hooker capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to Keene, someone he’s developed a great rapport with.

“I keep a close relationship with everyone,” Hooker said. “Just try to communicate and get a good feel for everyone, because as freshmen, everyone is new to this whole lifestyle. Keeping a close relationship with everyone is key.”

Hooker did make one mistake. Phil Patterson was lined up on the right side of the field, running an in-route, before breaking back outside. Hooker threw the ball as if Patterson were continuing inside, and Brandon Facyson picked it off.

“I knew it was a red flag,” Hooker said. “The guys on the sideline were just all on my side and gave me great support.”

In all, Hooker looked poised and relaxed.

“Hendon has done a good job,” said Head Coach Justin Fuente. “When you talk to him, I think he’ll say he has a long way to go.”

In other quarterback news, Bush went 3-5 for 60 yards, while Jackson went 3-7 for 59 yards. Bush and Jackson both faced the first-team defense and were under pressure on multiple plays. At least two of Jackson’s incompletions were from throwaways.

Jackson says that despite his numbers, he feels like his spring was productive.

“I think I progressed, I think I got better,” Jackson said. “I think the Spring Game went well, maybe a play or two that I could’ve extended or something like that… other than that I think spring went well for me. I got to continue to get better and continue to study the game.”

For Bush, this was his first opportunity to showcase his talents to the fan base.

“It was incredible,” Bush said. “For the weather, it was a great turnout. I think I did pretty good today. I could’ve made at least one or two more throws, but we had some big plays here and there. I think we only had three series, but it was good work.”

All three quarterbacks got to work with Farley, who was recently moved to wide receiver. The Hokies have several receivers dealing with injuries, and Farley took advantage of the playing time. He drew three pass interference calls, all on Facyson. He also made two great receptions on deep throws, and finished with 88 total yards of offense.

“He’s very fast, so I think that helps him out a lot,” Jackson said. “He also has good hands, so his speed and just being able to catch the ball I think really helps him. He’s an aggressive player.”

Farley started the spring working on the defensive side of the ball, but seems to have found a home on offense.

2017.04.22. Spring Game at Virginia Tech (Hokies). Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA. VT Head Coach: Justin Fuente.
Caleb Farley (13) looked like a natural-fit at wide receiver on Saturday.

“I was doing cartwheels and summersaults inside when he came on our side of the ball,” Foster said. “I’m sure the offensive guys are doing the same thing right now. He’s just a young guy that has a lot of ability, a tremendous skill set, loves the game of football and whichever side of the ball he’s going to play on, he is going to compete and work to be the best.”

“I think I know how that’s all going to work out, but Caleb and I haven’t talked about any of that yet,” Fuente said. “Through our player evaluations, as we talk as a staff, obviously we’ll come up with what we’re going to do with him moving forward.”

Farley and Keene have a real opportunity to play important roles next season. Keene has slid into the H-Back role, and caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. His versatility, and his athleticism, make him a prime candidate to play as a true-freshman.

“That position is not as difficult mentally as quarterback, but it’s probably the second most,” Fuente said. “To have a true-freshman come in and pick it up, and be able to line up in different spots and do some things, combined with some good athletic ability, he had a really good spring and I was really pleased with him.”

Defensively, how the front four held their own against the first and second-team offenses was the battle to watch. Starting defensive ends Trevon Hill and Vinny Mihota have been limited for the entire spring, and Virginia Tech’s top-four defensive ends this spring have little experience. Emmanuel Belmar, Raymon Minor and Xavier Burke all moved to defensive end this spring, and Jimmie Taylor missed most of last season with an injury.

There’s work to be done, but Foster feels a bit more confident in the Hokies’ depth at defensive end.

“I thought in 15 days, they made tremendous improvement,” Foster said. “Are they where we want them to be, no, but they have given me, and us as a staff, hope that they can give us quality depth. Not just go finish a game, I’m talking about going in and being productive.”

In the middle, Ricky Walker and Tim Settle anchored a first-team defense that didn’t allow much in terms of running the football. None of Virginia Tech’s running backs put up big numbers, and Settle registered a sack as well.

“I feel good about the inside guys. We have a lot of work to do on the edge,” Fuente said.

2017.04.22. Spring Game at Virginia Tech (Hokies). Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA. VT Head Coach: Justin Fuente.
Terius Wheatley (center) made an impressive debut at Virginia Tech’s Spring Game.

Virginia Tech spring game general stats and observations

Out of the running backs, Terius Wheatley put up the best numbers. His carries primarily came against the second-team defense, where he rushed for 30 yards on five carries. Steven Peoples ran the ball 11 times for 25 yards, while DJ Reid ran the ball nine times for 13 yards. Travon McMillian got just five carries and didn’t play much after the first few possessions.

Phil Patterson made a great reception near the end of the game and Sam Denmark also made a 22-yard reception. Kalil Pimpleton, who was a featured target in Virginia Tech’s open practice on Tuesday, made two catches for seven yards. Even though the Hokies are thin and young at the skill positions, there’s confidence that they’ll make plays next season.

“Obviously we don’t have Bucky Hodges or Isaiah (Ford) anymore, so that’s two big losses, but I would not say we’re bad at all,” Jackson said. “We’re young, but I think Cam really backs it, he’s going to be good once he’s healthy, and the same with Sam Denmark, Eric Kumah. All of them are going to be a big factor and CJ (Carroll), when he gets back it’ll be really good.”

Joey Slye went 2-2 on field goal attempts, connecting on kicks from 49 and 59 yards. Slye is well-known for his strong leg, but to this point has never made a field goal attempt in a game from further than 49 yards.

“We knew he’s got a big leg,” Fuente said. “He’s continuing to work on his operation time and getting it all worked out, but it was pretty cool.”

Virginia Tech has dealt with a rash of injuries this spring, and over a dozen Hokies were not available during the Spring Game. Here’s a list of players who were held out of the Spring Game due to injury — wide receivers CJ Carroll, Sean Daniel, Eric Kumah and Henri Murphy, defensive backs Divine Deablo, Shawn Payne, Mook Reynolds and Greg Stroman, running backs Coleman Fox, Trey Skeens and Deshawn McClease, defensive linemen Trevon Hill, Joe Koshuta and Vinny Mihota, linebackers Sean Kuelskamp, Trent Young and Rico Kearney and offensive linemen Billy Ray Mitchell, Demetri Moore and Parker Osterloh.

Even though there are so many players that Virginia Tech couldn’t evaluate this spring, Fuente still believes the spring was good for the team.

“Would I prefer to have everyone out there, sure, but that’s just not the situation,” Fuente said. “We deal with the situation we have, we get the work for the guys that are out there, because you never know what’s going to happen. We give the exact same amount of reps to our twos as we give our ones for a reason, because the twos end up playing in the season. I’m happy that they’re all going to be back, that they’re all going to be ready to go in the summer, run and lift, and do all those things. We still got good work. We still got better.”

Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

19 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. What the f***! We are seeing the birth of a football dynasty and you guys are arguing about punctuation? Get a life!

    1. It is very common for TSL posters to suggest grammar corrections to TSL authors. I don’t see the benefit in having a young associate editor of TSL get ‘true freshmen’ wrong.

  2. The hyphens for ‘true freshmen’ and ‘top four’ should probably go. Check hyphen rules for compound modifiers.

      1. 11hokie–In my opinion, if this were Ricky’s on-the-side blog, your response would be appropriate. However, this is a professional site (with media credentials). It is reasonable to expect professional editorial standards. That includes proper grammar and style.

        1. Ricky’s been trained in AP style, so I figured he knew best. We’ll discuss it this week.

          1. Again, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s the content that matters. Well, except for that total embarrassment bourbon street.

          2. Thanks. I hope I didn’t sound too snippy. I’ve always respected the editorial standards you have. Even when you did not have credentialed media access, I thought your standards were higher than those exhibited by many of the credentialed media.

            I agree with 11hokie to a certain extent–the content has to be there. However, I also feel that the presentation of the content influences how (some of) the readers view that content. For better or worse, I’m one of those people; judging by lawhokie’s comment and DW Hokie’s response, there are a few others who feel that way.

    1. Got to agree with you. Even though I learned English as a second language, I LOVE my grammar rules.

      1. If you love your grammar rules then you should have to have known better than to have capitalised love. Nothing against you. I am a proud English major and feeling feisty on this wonderful rainy day which I am sharing with my cat.

    2. I got my degree in English at VT. I used to be obsessed with the small stuff but that is no longer the case. It is my understanding that Thomas Jefferson was not too great at spelling. As for Farley, I was born on 13 October so anyone wearing 13 is automatically someone I root for. Good day to all.

  3. There was some serious freshman talent on the field. I am pumped for the future. You heard it here first- within five years we will win the national championship.

    1. I told my youngest son (27) when Fuente was hired. 3 – 5 years and we are playing for another National Championship.

  4. Travon did come off the field holding his arm a little bit. I don’t believe he got back on the field after that (including when the PA guy corrected himself)

  5. Very pleased with what I saw today. There is still lots to do, but the raw material is definitely there.

Comments are closed.