Jerod Evans first met Brenden Motley at Top of the Stairs, a bar in downtown Blacksburg. Motley bought him a drink and welcomed Evans to Virginia Tech.
“I’m 22, so don’t get no idea,” Evans joked. “It was, ‘Congrats man, now let’s get to business’. He gave me a warm welcome here. On the field, he’s very business-oriented, I’m very business-oriented, we just want the team to win.”
Now, Evans and Motley are locked in a tight quarterback battle to see who will start for the Hokies on Sep. 3 against Liberty.
“I know that this is important to them,” said Virginia Tech football Head Coach Justin Fuente. “They’ve worked hard and been diligent in their preparation to give themselves a chance to have success. I feel like I have a decent feel for them, as good as I could right now.”
“I figure it would be premature for me to do that and it would be a discredit to those kids,” Fuente said. “We go into it every day with an open mind and evaluate it as we go.”
For Motley, fighting for playing time is nothing new. He’s played in just 15 games in his career, and has started only six of them, all coming last season.
However, this competition is a little different for Motley, a fifth-year senior.
“This is my last year though, so obviously it means a little bit more,” Motley said.
Evans is still settling in at Virginia Tech. He says he’s built relationships with teammates, even though he’s nowhere near done.
“You have to do your due diligence, get to know them,” Evans said. “I’m still doing that. It’s only been seven or eight months, so I’m still getting to know them. I think it’s gone pretty smooth.”
Motley and Evans on the New Offense
Both Motley and Evans are learning a new offense. Motley played last season under former Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, while Evans played last season at Trinity Valley Community College at the JUCO-level.
“I like it a lot,” Motley said of the new offense. “It’s a lot of fun when you get rolling. It is different, but I like it. I enjoy it a lot. The coaches have been doing a great job helping us out, the transition has gone smooth.”
“It’s an era of spread the ball and go fast-tempo,” Evans said. “A lot of teams are doing what we’re doing.”
Motley said that this offense is easier to run than the offense the Hokies employed last season.
“It’s simple and sweet,” Motley said. “Get the call, get lined up and run the play and execute. It’s simple and sweet and that’s how I think it should be.”
Of course, neither quarterback has shown they’ve mastered the offense. Fuente says that while he’s confident in both quarterbacks, he still needs to see both of them grow before the beginning of the season.
“We’re still trying to improve, we’re still trying to get both of them better, but daily I feel better about both of them,” Fuente said.
Fortunately for Fuente, Motley and Evans have similar skill sets. Both are big, athletic quarterbacks with strong arms, and have shown their ability to make plays.
“I think everybody has small nuances that they’re better or worse at, and those two are certainly no exception,” Fuente said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a situation where, at least it hasn’t been in practice and I don’t anticipate it being a deal, where it’s cumbersome in terms of this guy can only run these plays, this other guy can only do these plays. I think you try to tilt it to their skill set the best you can. It’s not like one of them is a 5-foot-11 guy; they’re both big, good athletes.”
Fuente Brings the Intensity
Fuente isn’t taking it easy on them either. He lets them know when they mess up and tests them constantly in practice.
“If we don’t go where we’re supposed to go with the ball, he’s at us pretty hard,” Motley said. “That’s what the position is all about, pressure. Sometimes you’ll be under pressure, and you’ve got to execute, you’ve got to make those plays when you are under pressure.”
“Coach Fuente has his methods,” Evans said. “It depends on if you’re used to it or not. I’m very used to it. People in my face, not in my face, I’m used to those situations. He wants to see, just like anything, he wants to see if the guy that you choose folds under pressure, if he’s ready for the stage.”
“We try to put some pressure on them during practice,” Fuente said. “I usually handle part of that.
“It’s one thing to drop back and throw the ball in 7-on-7 drills, it’s another thing to get hit pretty hard and get up and go play the next play,” Fuente said.
What’s Fuente looking for in his starting quarterback?
“To me, it’s taking care of the football, managing your emotions and the ups and downs of the game and predicted outcomes,” Fuente said. “Those three things to me, trying to boil the quarterback situation into three sentences, that’s what I would say. Value the football, handle the ups and downs of a ball game, which is a lot easier said than done, predicted outcomes, doing what you’re coached to do. It doesn’t necessarily mean the result is positive, there are a lot of variables out there on any given play. That’s why sometimes, statistics can be misleading in trying to determine a quarterback. Is a guy doing what we ask him to do on a consistent basis?”
Fuente, along with Offensive Coordinator Brad Cornelson, keeps both Motley and Evans updated on where they stand, something that both quarterbacks appreciate.
“Every day, the coaches are telling us that we’re out here to get the team better and keep working, work on consistency,” Motley said. “Bring the team along with you, bring the second team along with you. Right now, we’re just trying to go out on the field and execute and make the plays when they come along.”
“Coach has always been up front from the get go,” Evans said. “He tells us it’s a competition like he did when I first came in here. We’re fighting in out. We’re both quarterbacks, we have the same position, we both want what’s best for the team. We want this team to succeed, and we’re just having a battle right now.”