There are no real developments concerning Virginia Tech football’s quarterback battle so far, but things could change on Friday.
The Hokies will conduct their second intra-squad scrimmage Friday evening, and it sounds like the scrimmage might bear a lot of weight on the competition between Josh Jackson, AJ Bush and Hendon Hooker.
“We’re trying to get to this scrimmage, really,” Fuente said. “When we scrimmaged the first time, it was… it’s not very long, it’s less than half of a practice, it’s all normal down and distance. We don’t get into third downs and that sort of stuff. It’s just base offense vs. base defense, and see who can line up and play. This one is a little better evaluation tool.”
It seems like all three quarterbacks are still realistically in the battle to start on Sept. 3 vs. West Virginia. The reps between the three passers have not been pared down as of yet, and it sounds like all three have progressed in similar fashions.
“Obviously, there is a point and time, we have to move forward and make a decision. I’m not sure what that date is, we’re not to that point yet. I’m optimistic and hopeful somebody will separate themselves before we get to whatever that kind of mythical date is. I don’t envision a scenario where we’re, for a lack of a better term, playing cat-and-mouse. I envision us making a decision, and going with it. And, also understanding that after that decision is made, whoever that person is, still hasn’t proved anything on the field. That evaluation will continue.”
For AJ Bush, his supreme athletic ability has stood out so far in camp. Fuente praised Bush’s athleticism on Friday, saying he’s one of the best athletes on the entire team.
“I think Hendon is going to be like that as he gets bigger and stronger, and Josh is a good athlete, but those guys, AJ in particular, he has a little bit more of that, just speed,” Fuente said. “There is a certain difference there. I guess my answer is yeah, we’re starting to kind of filter those things out and talk about if player A is the quarterback, would we want to focus a little bit more on doing these things and with player B, focus a little bit more on these things. Those conversations are going on, yeah.”
As Hendon Hooker has pushed to start, one of his priorities has been to add weight and grow physically. The slender true-freshman now feels like he’s physically ready to start.
“Just gaining muscle weight, trying to get stronger in different areas,” Hooker said. “My legs, my back shoulder, I put on 20 pounds since I enrolled.”
Hooker also has been able to adapt to not just the college game, but the college lifestyle as well. Hooker graduated high school in December and was enrolled in Virginia Tech before his senior prom.
“I definitely feel much more comfortable in the situation and the college environment than I was before in the spring,” Hooker said. “I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”
Jackson, who has the most experience in Justin Fuente’s system, says that Bush and Hooker have both grown mentally, and for the most part the two have caught up to him.
“At this point, I feel like it’s not much of a factor,” Jackson said. “They’ve kind of caught on. They know the system pretty well. Maybe with installing some little plays or tempos, stuff like that, I’d remember. Maybe that’s an advantage, but not really. They’re smart guys. They catch on pretty well.”
The three quarterbacks are also getting along off the field, helping each other in the meeting room and rooting for each other.
“There’s a team-first mentality with them right now, which is a good thing,” Fuente said. “It’s a positive thing for our entire group. When you have a competition like this, we used it several times last year with Brenden Motley, it’s nice to be able to hold those examples up to the rest of the team, because everyone is going through their own competition or their own ups and downs with their play. It’s how to handle those adverse times, and Motley was a fantastic example of that. We needed him at points during the season last year whichever direction we go, we’ll need the other guy or guys at some point during the season as well.”
Hokies still searching for starter at right guard
In non-quarterback related news, Virginia Tech doesn’t seem close to finding a starter at right guard. Kyle Chung, Parker Osterloh and Braxton Pfaff are the primary three working with the starting unit, but none of them seems to have separated himself from the others.
“We just continue to move guys through there and see how it goes,” Fuente said.
Burden talks internship, running backs
Virginia Tech running backs coach Zohn Burden took part in the Bill Walsh Fellowship with the Washington Redskins prior to the start of fall camp, and said the event went about as well as he could ask for.
“It’s open access, which was a beautiful thing,” Burden said. “I worked hand-in-hand with the running backs coach (Randy Jordan). It was more about learning different techniques and how we can make our running backs at Virginia Tech better. That’s kind of what the whole goal was for me.”
The fellowship, centered on promoting diversity among coaches in the NFL, has existed since 1987. College assistants from around the country are accepted and are allowed to work with the team during practices and training camp, as well as preseason games.
“It’s a program where you have to apply,” Burden said. “I have been applying since 2007, when I first started coaching. It was a blessing. Just got a phone call randomly, when I was out recruiting in the spring, and it was great to be able to take advantage of that opportunity a couple weeks before we had to go to camp.”
While working with the Redskins, Burden got the chance to catch up with former Virginia Tech assistant Torrian Gray. Gray and Burden coached together at Tech during the 2015 season, under Frank Beamer. Gray played for Virginia Tech from 1992-1996 and coached the Hokie defensive backs from 2006-2015. Now, Gray is the defensive backs coach for the Redskins.
“He loves it,” Burden said of Gray. “He played in the NFL. It’s a new challenge for him. He was here for a long time, did a great job, so it’s a new challenge for him. He wants to prove he can coach at the highest level.”
As far as Virginia Tech’s running backs, Burden said that he’s searching for as many options as he can find.
“I think we like to play with as many running backs as we can,” Burden said. “We want to get those guys on the field as much as we can. We’ve got them in all shapes and sizes, different levels of talent we got those guys at, and you want them all to be able to play. That’s kind of what our goal is. It could end up being three, four, five, six, we want to get as many guys involved in the game as we can.”