Late in Saturday’s loss to Clemson, the Hokies were left with just one active quarterback available to play, redshirt-freshman Knox Kadum.
“Knox went out there and competed his tail off. I was proud of the way he went out there and hung in there and competed,” Head Coach Justin Fuente said following the game. “I have no idea what that means moving forward, but he did a good job going in there.”
Had Kadum been forced out of the game, there would not have been any other quarterbacks dressed to take his place. Fuente said that tight end James Mitchell would have been the next option to take snaps if the situation presented itself.
“We never approached him about that, but if it had gotten to that point on Saturday, we probably would have put James back there and had him hand the ball off,” Fuente said. “It would have been past the point of being able to conduct a football game.”
The quarterback room went from a strength of the Hokies’ roster to a large question mark in just one week. Early last week, redshirt-sophomore Quincy Patterson announced that he would be entering the transfer portal. This move weakened the depth of the group behind center, but Patterson was sitting at third on the depth chart for most of the season.
What the coaching staff didn’t anticipate were the issues that starter Hendon Hooker and backup Braxton Burmeister would encounter against Clemson.
On the first series of the game, Hooker fumbled a snap, leading to a punt. When the offense took the field again, it was the former Oregon Duck, Burmeister, in the huddle.
“We broke the huddle with 25 seconds left on the play clock, and that was not the plan, then we dropped the snap,” Fuente said. “Our deal was that we wanted to get [Hooker] calmed down, focused and ready to go play.”
Burmeister led the Hokies to a touchdown on his first drive and took over for the remainder of the first half and well into the third quarter. However, after taking a sack that forced a punt, Burmeister was sent to the locker room and didn’t see action for the rest of the game.
Although his injury knocked him out for the fourth quarter, there is optimism that he could be available for Saturday’s game against Virginia.
“I don’t know yet. Braxton came in and worked out yesterday, so I would anticipate that he’ll be fine,” Fuente said. “We’ll know more this evening when we have our staff meeting.”
Hooker re-entered the game, and just two plays later he fumbled another shotgun snap. This one was returned 66 yards the other way for a Clemson touchdown.
Following his second miscue in two drives, Hooker went inside as well, having issues with the cold. The belief is that Tech’s most-experienced quarterback is fine moving forward, but the issues that Hooker had health-wise and performance-wise on Saturday leaves some room for concern.
“He was fine yesterday and fine after the game. I’ve never seen that, and I don’t know that our medical staff has seen an issue like that. We’re trying to do everything we can to take care of him moving forward,” Fuente said. “I would anticipate that this Saturday night will be chilly as well. We have to look at what we can look at because this is a guy who has had issues with being cold. We have to find ways that we can help that out.”
With good prospects that both Hooker and Burmeister will be available against the Cavaliers, the Hokies hope to not have depth issues like they did against Clemson. However, with Burmeister’s injury issues this season and Hooker’s strange night against the Tigers, there may need to be some safeguards at the position to avoid a disaster.
“We’ll talk about it this week. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that, but those are conversations we’ll have to have. We would consider a lot of things,” Fuente said. “We’re a long way away from making decisions on who is dressing and who is not dressing. Depending on who is available, that certainly could affect who we call up to dress.”