The 2019 Virginia Tech football Spring Game is now just two days away, set to take place inside Lane Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m.
It’s a time for Virginia Tech to sample the team for the upcoming season, and it gives a glimpse of some players who we may not typically see. However, there’s a consensus pick for the most anticipated player that the crowd wants to see on Saturday, and that’s quarterback Quincy Patterson II.
The redshirt freshman will be appearing in his first Spring Game after arriving in Blacksburg last summer. In a few brief stints in the 2018 season, Patterson was 1-of-5 passing for nine yards, and he attempted nine carries for 25 yards.
So what was Patterson’s primary concern for his development this spring?
“Really just knowing the offense like the back of my hand,” Patterson said. “Throughout the season I got a lot of different learning experiences, but not quite like the spring has been because during the season you’ve got to worry about game-planning and this and that. But now we’re kind of just going through the foundations of what we play, like protections and stuff like that. And kind of just learning that as well, I’ve been doing for the past three weeks now.”
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The former Elite 11 finalist came to Virginia Tech as a 4-star prospect with a 0.9048 composite score according to 247Sports. Any quarterback recruit is going to garner a lot of attention, but the evaluation on Patterson placed expectations on him from the start.
“I think he’s done a really good job with it all, quite honestly,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “He seems to be a very level-headed young man, very humble and hardworking… These kids deal with this stuff, these expectations or labels or whatever you want to give them when they come out of high school. Everybody develops on their own time.
“On the whole, I think he’s done a tremendous job of not getting impatient, but also having urgency to improve. To me that’s the balance. Guys want to get better, they have an urgency to be good right now, but also they’re not impatient in understanding that there’s a little bit of a process that comes with this. I think he’s done a good job of this.”
For Patterson, it all comes back to a solid foundation that helps him drown out the noise, so he can focus on the coaching he’s receiving and the intricacies of the game that come with being a college quarterback.
“For the most part I kind of try to zone all that out,” Patterson said. “My parents have kind of raised me in a way that I stay level-headed, and I never let things get above me or I just know that I’m not above anyone else. And that’s kind of how I’ve treated being here and the things that came with me being a quarterback and me being as highly recruited as I was. It’s kind of just take everything with a grain of salt and know what I’m here for, who I am, and my purpose.”
Patterson played his high school ball on a team with a run-heavy offense that didn’t even pass the ball 70 times the entire season. It’s led some to question what exactly we can expect from the signal caller through the air, especially after being featured in mainly run packages last year. Patterson insists that it’s something that shouldn’t be held against him, and he’s ready to exhibit his arm on Saturday and beyond.
“That’s kind of why you come to play college quarterback, to kind of be that all-around quarterback, not just do what I did last year,” Patterson said. “But even if my role stayed the same next year, I’d just be happy to be on the field. But being able to do everything is definitely a plus, and I’d be excited to do that as well.”
With the major adjustments of learning a new playbook and adapting to the academic rigors of college behind him (Patterson told us he switched from engineering to business), Patterson and his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame might be used in a great capacity on Saturday, too. Fuente teased reporters that it’s still undecided if he’ll let the quarterbacks go live for portions of the scrimmage.
“I like to talk mess to my teammates,” Patterson said. “So it’d definitely be fun trying to back up the offense rather than just get tagged off, actually being taken to the ground, it’s a little more realistic, I guess you could say. But it would definitely be a lot more fun in that way.”
A Look at the Rest of the Quarterback Room
As Patterson mentioned above, the thought of going live for the spring game had Ryan Willis chomping at the bit as well.
“It’s more like real football,” Willis said. “I haven’t been live yet this spring, but if we’re live on Saturday, more to it. That’s kind of exciting.
“It’s a lot different feeling when you’re live, because you’ve got the feeling in the back of your head like, ‘OK, I can’t get hit. I can sit in the pocket just a half second longer.’”
Willis is coming off a year where he threw for 2,716 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The redshirt senior started 10 games, filling in for Josh Jackson, who went down with a season-ending leg injury in the third game of the season against ODU.
This spring, Willis has taken more of a lead by having a full grasp of what the offense is trying to accomplish now.
“I’m just more comfortable in the system,” Willis said. “Confidence has never been an issue. I feel good if I’m doing, everything’s operating well. If I’m not worried about what I’m doing, I’ve got more time to check on other guys, if they’re lined up the right way. If they’re on or off the ball, just simple things like that. I’m trying to take the next step and get a better overall understanding of just the game itself.”
Hendon Hooker is back for his redshirt sophomore season after a brief stint in the transfer portal this offseason. In the end, the process played out and Hooker elected to return to the Hokies, a move that Fuente says has not impacted Hooker in the least.
“You would never know anything ever happened,” Fuente said. “He’s been great. I told him it’s not something I’m going to ever hold over your head. It’s a situation where we work through and we move forward. I haven’t noticed any difference in Hendon at all.”
The highlight of 2018 for Hooker was his 69-yard touchdown run against William & Mary. The scamper demonstrated the speed that Hooker has when he gets into open space. Now, he’s ready for the quarterback competition that awaits him, Willis, and Patterson the rest of this spring and into the summer and fall.
“They’re basically like my best friends, since I’m with them most of the time,” Hooker said. “I feel like the competition is great because we all push each other to be better.”
Other Spring Game Items
Fuente has not decided on a format for the spring game yet. In the past, he’s done offense versus defense, and he noted that it all depends on how many healthy bodies he’ll have on tap.
With the Hokies still having three practices after Saturday, this is an opportunity for Fuente and Co. to get some more reps during the Spring Game.
“I’m leaning towards maybe creating a situation where we do a little more on the field than we have the last couple years,” Fuente said. “Maybe might not be as tied into a clock as much as being tied into getting good reps, creating some situational work with the offense and the defense.
“My anticipation is it may be a little bit longer and a bit bigger body of work because it is our last scrimmage and it’s practice 12. Traditionally we would have a big scrimmage on practice 12, then the Spring Game would be tapered down a little bit. We flipped those. We really won’t have the short, abbreviated Spring Game we’ve had the past couple of years.”
What exactly is the coaching staff looking for during the game when the current roster debuts in front of the Virginia Tech faithful?
“As a whole, I want those guys to go out there and compete on a stage,” Fuente said. “I want them to play with emotion, play with discipline. I want them to execute. Ultimately, as the head coach, you want to see a play called and you want to see 22 guys doing their job. At the end of that play, one guy either made a play or didn’t make a play, but everybody did what they were supposed to do, and they were in the right position. As many of those reps as we can see, the happier I’ll be.”
It’s important to remember that position battles aren’t won during the Spring Game. They’re won over the entire body of work during the offseason. Still, Saturday will give the first look at where some guys are beginning to line up.
“I wouldn’t read too much into anything,” Fuente said. “We’ll be shuffling people around, trying to fill out the squad… I wouldn’t read too much into who’s a starter and who’s not a starter. We’re still trying to formulate all of this stuff, but we are having good competition at places.”