Hendon Hooker Brings “Easy-Going Demeanor” To Virginia Tech’s Offense

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Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker (2) reacts after scoring on North Carolina’s Tomari Fox (56) on a five-yard carry in the third quarter on Saturday, October 10, 2020 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Robert Willett, ACC Pool Photograph)

There wasn’t much that was pretty about Virginia Tech’s 56-45 defeat at the hands of North Carolina. However, if there’s one positive that can be taken away, it appears the Hokies have found their quarterback moving forward. 

Once Hendon Hooker was installed into the offense in the second half, Virginia Tech’s offense began clicking on a different level, putting up 31 points in 30 minutes.

“[Hendon] made some plays down the field,” head coach Justin Fuente said during Monday’s Zoom session. “James Mitchell ended up with a ball that ended up being a huge play. He operated really efficiently. On the very first play, I believe Tre [Turner] battled for a ball on third down that kept the drive alive, so I was really pleased with the way he played.”

With Boston College on the docket this week, Fuente confirmed that Hooker will be his starting quarterback moving forward, barring any changes in this unstable landscape of college football that we’re currently in. Against the Tar Heels, Hooker finished 7-of-13 passing for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 29 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.

While Hooker might not have the legs that Burmeister showcased, he can still move around and make plays on the ground while his ability in the passing game opens up the offense even more.

“I think certainly his mobility helps us on third down and opens up opportunities,” Fuente said. “The quarterback run game and our ability to run the tailback on some third downs has helped eliminate some of the extravagant looks that teams get to on third downs. It doesn’t get rid of all of them by any means, but that’s certainly in the back of their head when they’re game planning sometimes. That can help you limit some of the looks and maybe pare things down. I also think he understands what we’re trying to get done and what we’re trying to accomplish. Getting into third and a bit more manageable with a guy who can run around a little bit is an easier task.”

Maybe more than anything, the offense looked composed on Saturday once Hooker took the field in the second half. Oftentimes, teams take the personality of their signal caller, and the 6-foot-4 Greensboro native possesses a calm demeanor when he leads the troops. 

“He’s got a pretty easy-going demeanor,” Fuente said. “I’d say he’s a good communicator. He’s like a lot of guys, he enjoys sports. That’s kind of a common thread with him and many of the other players on the team. He just kind of has a little bit of a presence about him. He’s easily approachable and easy to talk to. He knows he has to prove that on the field, and I don’t mean by throwing touchdown passes. It’s about how you work and how you prepare, and he’s done a good job of that as well.”

Here’s some other takeaways from Fuente’s weekly media availability.

Christian Darrisaw Continues to Improve

Brock Hoffman garnered most of the headlines early from Virginia Tech’s offensive line, the Vice Squad. His nastiness and edge were revelations up front for the group that has lacked it in years past.

On the other hand, left tackle Christian Darrisaw might just be the prized jewel of the unit. His consistent play at the position largely goes unnoticed, but it was on full display Saturday against UNC. Just take a look at the video below.

“I would say that he’s improved every year,” Fuente said. “The thing about Christian is he has been blessed with great hips and feet. He’s developed his body into being a strong, powerful body over the years. The thing that gives him a chance to be special is that he’s so very intelligent. He just has a very good understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s competitive… He has improved, and he’s improved every single year. He just continues to get better both from a physical side and a mental side.”

Darrisaw was named to PFF’s National Team of the Week alongside left guard Lecitus Smith. The 6-foot-5, 314-pound junior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland has started to generate buzz from draft experts. You won’t hear Darrisaw talk about it, but his play on the field continues to back it up.

“He is not the most talkative person, but he is one of the most competitive, which I think is awesome,” Fuente said. “One of his years here he played beat up. He had a foot issue that had to get fixed at the end of the year. He never complained about it. Never missed anything to my knowledge with it. He’s just a tough, competitive guy. I’m all about those guys. If they’re quiet, then that’s a bonus.”

Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day was observed this past Saturday on October 10 annually. In the midst of everything going on in our world today, it’s a more pressing issue than ever before. Fuente took the time to make some remarks on the topic.

“I don’t know that there’s ever been a group that has had to go through as much as the group has gone through right now,” Fuente said. “I’m talking about our kids. I don’t mean to diminish the value of any of the problems we’re facing as a country, but it’s like a perfect storm between all of the different elements that these young people face.

“I personally think we see it more in the young people and the effects of it in the young people because they want to live their lives. There are kids that are concerned about things. We’ve all got our different experiences and backgrounds and it contributes to who we are and how we view events that happen in our country or in the world. I just know that if it’s done one thing, maybe it has opened our eyes as a little bit older people to the things that these kids are going through.”

Meanwhile, social media only makes the battle even harder. Every moment is documented now, and it’s hard to flee from the realities of past mistakes. It even gives an outlet for people who can hide behind a username and send hateful messages, like Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green received after missing the game-winning three-pointer in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

“You throw social media on top of it, I have a sister that teaches junior high math, and those kids can never escape whatever happens at school, good or bad, because it’s in their pocket and they take it home and it’s either liked or not liked,” Fuente said. “Something embarrassing happened and they’re still hearing about it when they’re at home. There’s a lot on these young people today. Hopefully, through all of this, the older generation with some intelligence and perspective can sit back and look at what these young people are actually dealing with and find some ways to help them out. I think it’s incredibly detrimental to their health, and it’s maybe the hardest thing that our young group has been through.”

Brian Johnson’s Rise

Brian Johnson has continued to make a name for himself from the kicker position. On Saturday, Johnson nailed a 55-yarder right down the middle, just six yards short of Wayne Latimer’s record of 61-yards. Since last year’s UNC game, Johnson has made 17 straight kicks over the past nine games.

He added onto his accomplishments on Saturday with the surprise onside kick that helped spark the Hokies run in the third quarter.

“It’s delicate,” Fuente said. “Obviously if you hit it too hard, then it’s hard to recover, they have a better chance to recover. If you don’t hit it hard enough it doesn’t go 10 yards and everybody goes, ‘Man, you didn’t hit it hard.’ It’s like leaving a putt short. You’ve got no chance. You miss 100 percent of the putts that you leave short. 

“He has practiced it. We feel good about calling it. Obviously there’s a risk. We felt like it was well worth the reward at that time. We liked the call going into the game, but for him to pull it off and execute it, that’s a whole other thing. To me, it speaks to his ability to get prepared and what he’s doing and what he means to this football team right now.”

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Thanks Cory!

    I’m surprised how “philosophical” Coach Fu has been lately. I feel like we are getting a bit more of a glimpse into what makes him tick. I’m sure that makes writing these articles more interesting.

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