The transfer portal has become increasingly more important in college football, and Virginia Tech has seen the benefits and the issues that “free agency” can bring.
This year, with the blanket waiver being approved for all transfers, there has been a flurry of moves in and out of the program.
Initially, losses hit the Hokies’ program hard with two former four-star quarterbacks moving on from Blacksburg. Two-year starter Hendon Hooker and fan favorite Quincy Patterson left for Tennessee and North Dakota State, respectively. Hooker was benched in the final two games of the season after issues handling snaps against Clemson.
“I wasn’t surprised at all [that Hooker entered the portal]. I’m not going to speak to his decision,” Head Coach Justin Fuente said. “We had a couple of conversations about it, but I wasn’t surprised.”
This left the Hokies’ quarterback room in a unique situation with only one returner with starting experience, former Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister. When he was healthy, Burmeister was impressive, winning three of his four starts including the Commonwealth Cup. Outside of him, Tech’s group behind center was slated to consist of redshirt-freshman Knox Kadum and true freshman Tajh Bullock.
To shore up that position, the Hokies brought in Connor Blumrick from Texas A&M. He brings extra experience to compete behind Burmeister.
“The whole quarterback transfer portal is an interesting thing. I think I read somewhere that there’s an average of one per school in there right now or at one time,” Fuente said. “We have long-standing ties with [Texas A&M offensive coordinator] Darrell Dickey and we knew Connor coming out of high school, we weren’t involved in his recruitment too much. We were looking for a kind of a niche, it’s a unique situation with our current quarterback situation.”
Blumrick has played primarily special teams as he’s tried to find the position that suits him best. After stints at tight end and running back, Blumrick finally settles in at QB and joins the Hokies as a passer.
“Connor has played, and he’s felt rejuvenated by dedicating himself to being a quarterback,” Fuente said. “I think it spoke volumes about him that he played in a bunch of different spots for A&M.”
Offensively, Tech also took a hit up front with sophomores Bryan Hudson and Doug Nester hitting the portal. Hudson moved on to Louisville while Tech will see Nester in September when the Hokies travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia. The two interior linemen combined for over 2,000 offensive snaps in 2019 and 2020.
“It’s very disappointing. I think the world of both of those guys and their families. I’m not going to get into specifics about all of this, but it was disappointing because it is a little bit different,” Fuente said. “Those guys leaving hurt. I wish them nothing but the best, and I want them to be incredibly successful. I hope they find what they’re looking for.”
Currently, the Hokies don’t have much room to add other players via the portal, but those two left holes at key spots in the Vice Squad. The Hokies were able to bring in Maryland transfer Johnny Jordan to help fill the void, but there could be more coming before the season begins.
“There may or may not be room to play with a couple of scholarships, I don’t know that yet, and I probably won’t know that for several months. Number one on our priority list, if we do have some room, is on the offensive line,” Fuente said. “If we do have some room, maybe there would be a situation if there was a difference-maker on either side of the ball. I really don’t know where we’d go after that.”
Tech was already able to add a difference-maker defensively with former Clemson defensive tackle Jordan Williams. The Virginia-native decided to return home to the Commonwealth and is expected to make an immediate impact in 2021.
“Obviously, we have not been really big at defensive tackle, and that’s been part of what we need to do. He brings that first and foremost,” Fuente said. “Hopefully, combining that with what we’re trying to do with those people, he can be as productive as possible. This is a large man that moves well.”
Elsewhere, Tech brought in needed depth in the secondary. With Divine Deablo moving on to the NFL, there isn’t much experience in the backend. Vanderbilt transfer Tae Daley adds depth and a veteran presence at safety.
“Tae was a guy that Darryl [Tapp] had knowledge of his work ethic and his character,” Fuente said. “I really feel like Tae is a guy that is hungry to win and not just play, but add some depth and experience and also bring some of these young guys along.”
The transfer portal has already turned over many important positions on the Hokies’ roster over the past few months, and there could be more moves coming. Tech hopes that the contributions coming into the program continue to outweigh the players who have left over the past few seasons.
“There will be a guy that graduates and wants to drop down and go play some more. There may be somebody with medicals that can’t play anymore,” Fuente said. “There will be something that happens through the end of spring that we may or may not have room for one or two more guys eventually.”