The 2016 version of the Virginia Tech offense is one that hasn’t been seen in Blacksburg for quite some time.
The Hokies are averaging just over 40 points per game, which ranks 30th nationally. In comparison, Virginia Tech finished last season 74th in scoring offense.
A big reason for the offensive success? Quarterback Jerod Evans.
Evans is completing 67 percent of his passes, has thrown for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns through four games, while adding another 209 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Evans has also taken care of the football, throwing just one interception. He is fourth in the country in passing efficiency and first in the ACC.
“I think he’s shown value of the football, he’s done a good job of not forcing some throws when they weren’t there,” said Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente on Wednesday. “There haven’t been many times where I’ve felt like he’s bailed on it too early. I think he’s done a good job trying to work through his progressions and if nothing’s there, try to make something positive happen.”
Though it hasn’t been a big part of his game, Evans’ mobility has added another weapon to the Virginia Tech offense, as evidenced by his 55-yard touchdown run vs. East Carolina last weekend.
“We felt like he was a good athlete, and had some savvy when it came to running with the ball, some natural running instincts,” Fuente said. “I certainly didn’t anticipate the type of run that he had last Saturday. I’m not sure we’ll get many more of those duplicated through the rest of the season. We did feel like he had some skill, more than just being a big guy who can run a little bit.”
Fuente said that Evans’ dedication to preparation has allowed him to grow in the offense rather quickly.
“Jerod has a great desire to play well,” Fuente said. “He also has a sense of knowing that he has room to improve. He’s a very good listener, he will absolutely listen to what we’re trying to teach and try and replicate that. On a week to week basis, he spends as much time as anyone I’ve been around, in the office, digesting the gameplan, going over the looks that he’s going to see. He’s very diligent in his preparation and I think that’s given him a chance to play well.”
If there’s one portion of Evans’ game that still needs work, it’s sitting back in the pocket and making key throws down the field.
“We still continue in terms of development, in terms of our drop back passing game,” Fuente said. “We’re a little more of a play action passing team, but I have been pleased.”
Fuente also acknowledged the difficulty of Virginia Tech’s schedule in the coming weeks. Four of the Hokies’ next five games are on the road, and those teams have a combined record of 12-7, including games against North Carolina, Miami and Pittsburgh, all of whom were expected to contend for the Coastal Division championship this season.
To make things more difficult, Virginia Tech must prepare for Miami on a short week, then play Pittsburgh on the road for another Thursday night game.
“I think we know we’ve got a heck of a gauntlet here of eight straight weeks of football, with a couple Thursday games in there with some very competitive and challenging opponents and on the road,” Fuente said. “We definitely have a good feel of how difficult the road ahead is going to be.”
The bye week comes at a good time, allowing Virginia Tech to take a step back and evaluate themselves four weeks into the season.
“I do like the way that we’re playing in terms of preventing people from running the football and getting them behind the chains,” Fuente said. “We have made some big plays in the passing game. Offensively, we’ve been very efficient throwing the football. Then, special teams has improved. I’m hopeful, and we’re going to need them as we move forward and get into ACC play. We’re going to need to continue to improve there, special teams-wise. I think we’ve made some good strides in the first four weeks.”
“We have plenty of things to work on through our bye week,” Fuente said. “We’ll spend most of this week focusing on ourselves and a little bit later in the week and obviously next week, focusing on our opponent.”