All Eyes on the Quarterbacks as Virginia Tech Hosts Furman

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In a quick turnaround, Virginia Tech will take on the Furman Paladins on Saturday afternoon in Lane Stadium. The Hokies will look to collect their first win over the season, as well as evaluate new starting quarterback Brenden Motley and whoever backs him up.

Furman: Bad Last Season, but Improved This Year

Last season was not a good one for Furman. After winning their first two games against Gardner-Webb and Mercer, the Paladins lost nine of their final 10 games. With a season opening loss to Coastal Carolina this season, Furman has now lost 10 of their last 11 football games.

Here were their scores from a year ago…

Gardner-Webb: 13-3 W
Mercer: 25-20 W
Presbyterian: 10-7 L
South Carolina State: 17-7 L
Western Carolina: 35-17 L
Coastal Carolina: 37-31 L
South Carolina: 41-10 L
Samford: 45-0 L
VMI: 31-15 L
The Citadel: 42-35 L
Wofford: 31-14 W
Chattanooga: 45-19 L

Furman’s offense was fairly young and inexperienced, and they struggled for much of the season. However, this appears to be an improved football team in 2015, as they took #1 Coastal Carolina down to the wire last weekend. They should not be able to compete with Virginia Tech, but still, they are better than last season.

The Furman Offense

Here’s a look at Furman’s starting offense…

QB Reese Hannon (6-1, 209, r-Jr.): 23 games, 22 starts
RB Antonio Wilcox (6-2, 216, So.): 9 games, 3 starts
FB Ernie Caine (6-0, 220, r-Sr.): 32 games, 17 starts
WR Jordan Snellings (6-2, 195, r-Sr.): 36 games, 15 starts
WR Andrej Stuttles (5-10, 185, r-Jr.): 27 games, 22 starts
WR Logan McCarter (6-1, 182, r-So.): 13 games, 1 start
TE Kevin Mall (6-2, 241, r-Jr.): 26 games, 2 starts
LT Jackson Buonamia (6-3, 292, Jr.): 22 games, 5 starts
LG Justin Floyd (6-4, 290, r-Sr.): 23 games, 16 starts
C Eric Thoni (6-1, 260, r-Sr.: 22 games, 22 starts
RG Joe Turner (6-3, 270, r-Sr.): 38 games, 35 starts
RT Matthew Schmidt (6-3, 290, r-So.): 9 games, 9 starts

Furman’s offense is very experienced, particularly at quarterback, wide receiver, and the interior offensive line. Here are the numbers they put up on Coastal Carolina last week…

Passing: 365
Rushing: 160
Total: 525
Points: 35

Reese Hannon threw a couple of interceptions, but other than that their offense hummed right along against the #1 FCS team in the Coaches Poll.

That being said, look at the size of the interior offensive line. The center is 260, and the right guard is 270. These guys should not be able to block Virginia Tech’s bigger, faster and more physical defensive tackles.

The Furman Defense

Here’s Furman’s starting defense…

DE TJ Warren (6-2, 222, r-Jr.): 27 games, 9 starts
DT Daniel Butler (6-4, 266, r-Fr.): 1 game, 1 start
DT Jaylan Reid (5-11, 274, r-Fr.): 1 game, 1 start
DE Brian Ross (6-5, 235, r-Jr.): 27 games, 1 start
LB Carl Rider (6-2, 225, r-Jr.): 27 games, 15 starts
LB Cory Magwood (6-2, 232, Sr.): 34 games, 18 starts
SS Dillon Woodruff (6-0, 213, r-So.): 10 games, 6 starts
CB Reggie Thomas (6-0, 186, Sr.): 38 games, 36 starts
CB Jamarri Milliken (5-11, 190, r-Jr.): 27 games, 13 starts
FS Trey Robinson (6-1, 212, Jr.): 24 games, 13 starts
FS Richard Hayes III (6-0, 194, Jr.): 26 games, 2 starts

The Paladins don’t have a ton of experience up front, but they’ve got good experience at linebacker and enough experience in the secondary. Here are their defensive numbers from the Coastal Carolina game…

Passing: 328
Rushing: 160
Total: 488
Points: 38

It’s easy to see what stands out on Furman’s defense. Their starting defensive tackles are extremely undersized r-freshmen who will be playing in just their second college game. Wyatt Teller, Augie Conte and Eric Gallo should be able to have their way with the interior of the Paladin defense.

Virginia Tech’s Quarterback Situation

That’s a very quick primer for Furman, for two reasons. First, it’s such a short week, and time is limited. Two, this game isn’t about Furman…it’s about Virginia Tech.

All eyes are going to be on Brenden Motley, and whomever else the Hokies decide to trot out there at quarterback. With Michael Brewer going down, Virginia Tech’s season rides on the performance of their quarterback(s) until their starter returns. We don’t know when that return will be, but a decent estimate could be around six weeks. Tech plays losable games between now and then, so it’s important to get good quarterback play.

We already know that Brenden Motley is going to be the starter. He should play well, because he’ll be facing an FCS opponent. I’ll be looking to see if he makes quick decisions in the passing game, which is something he struggled with against Ohio State. Still, there’s only so much we can learn about Motley against Furman. We’ll likely have a much better idea about his ability following the Purdue game.

What I’ll be watching for in this game is how much playing time the backup quarterbacks get. You can bet that more than one quarterback will play. The only questions are whether both Chris Durkin and Dwayne Lawson play, and in which order?

Frank Beamer said this week that the coaching staff never intended to redshirt Dwayne Lawson in 2015. If that’s the case, then the Furman game would be the obvious game to give him his first taste of college football.

While Motley is the starter for now, Scot Loeffler and Frank Beamer will have to quickly decide on their backup quarterback. They can’t go on repping three guys during practice. The NCAA limits teams to 20 hours per week, and that includes the actual game and film work. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get three quarterbacks ready. Therefore, a decision must be made very quickly.

Perhaps that decision has already been made, or perhaps Loeffler wants to play both backups against Furman, and then make a decision. It’s hard to say at this point, and he remained non-committal in yesterday’s interview sessions.

Regardless of which quarterback is in the game, it will be very important to get that player more experience in the passing game. All three guys are mobile guys who are capable of helping the offense in the running game. Scot Loeffler needs to evaluate how they operate the passing game in a real contest, not to mention that all three guys desperately need experience.

If three quarterbacks play, I’d like to get all three between 10 and 15 passing plays. If only two quarterbacks play, I’d like both guys to get between 15 and 20. It would normally make sense to just run the ball on Furman, keep the clock running, and escape the game with no injuries. However, the Hokies face a unique situation this week. They are going to win this football game either way, and I want those quarterbacks to gain as much passing experience as possible, even if it makes the game ugly. That experience will be important in upcoming games against FBS opponents.

Prediction

It’s Furman on a short week. I don’t expect the Hokies to look flawless or be completely into the game mentally, but I expect them to assert themselves at the line of scrimmage and come away with a relatively easy victory.

I don’t want Kendall Fuller to play on Saturday. He’s obviously hurt, and there’s no reason to risk him in a game we don’t need him. Save him for the rest of the season. I go back to the 2013 Western Carolina game, when JC Coleman was brought back too early for a meaningless game. As it turned out he wasn’t ready to return, and ended up missing the next two games. Let’s not go the same route with Fuller. Sit him.

Picking a score for a game like this is never easy. Tech could beat them by 50 if the Hokies are mentally into the game. It could also be a fairly ugly (though still relatively easy) victory if Tech just goes through the motions.

Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Furman 10

Will Stewart’s Take: In the old days, the Hokies would run the ball in this game about 60 times, and pass it maybe 10. You know, like they did in the 2000 UCF game (61 runs and 8 passes), when Michael Vick was out, backup Dave Meyer got hurt, and third stringer Grant Noel was inserted into the game. Get the W, get outta Dodge.

Man, was that game boring to watch.

Granted, VT had a guy named Lee Suggs back then (30 carries, 143 yards that night). But that used to be the philosophy: get the win, period. In that game, when Meyer got hurt midway through the third quarter, Noel entered the game and Tech ran the ball their last 20 plays of the game. There was no effort at all to get Noel some experience in the passing game. VT was facing a bye week the following Saturday, and the coaches knew that Vick would be back for Virginia two weeks later. He was, and VT beat the Hoos 42-21 behind Vick and Suggs.

These are very different circumstances, though, and you would think that passing development with the young QBs has moved up the list in importance. This is about more than the W. When I sit and watch this game, I’ll be charting runs and throws for each quarterback, trying to figure out what the coaches are looking at with each guy.

“We’ve got a really good plan with the whole deal,” Loeffler said yesterday. I don’t doubt he does. I like Scot a lot and think he’s a good coach, and it’s a shame that just as he was hitting his stride here at VT, he lost the starting QB that he’d been developing for a year. But I’ll bet he’s got an interesting, thoughtful approach for Saturday.

With Motley, will they work on his passing, while getting in a few read option runs? Maybe. Will they focus strictly on the running game with Dwayne Lawson, and sprinkle in some passes as the games go on? I could see that, and as a matter of fact, I’ll be looking for that. Where does Chris Durkin fit in? I have no idea. Durkin was gutsy and ran well in one summer scrimmage, but he was clearly gimpy while he was doing it. (I admired his toughness that day.)

It’s going to be interesting stuff. Hopefully, the Tech defense can play a great game, get Furman off the field, and give Loeffler maximum time to rotate his QBs (which I think he’ll do) and work on them.

Do I have any idea what the score is going to be? Pfffft. No.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Furman 9

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20 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Boring? I’ll tell you what was boring: the 2000 Spring game. MV was the only healthy QB and played for both sides, obviously he was not allowed to run, and the defenses knew it.

  2. If Motley has not prepared to be an average Qback in 3 years does anyone think he will turn in to one in a week. If Lawson is the future the future is now.

      1. I too was underwhelmed by his appearance on Monday night..BUT the guy came off of the bench to face an incredibly talented OSU team who had just knocked our QB out of the game..Don’t know if it showed on TV, but there was an eerie silence that fell over the crowd the SECOND Brewer went down…it sucked every ounce of oxygen out of Lane Stadium, and it seemed to do the same to the team (even though we DID move the ball until JC’s “fumble”).

        I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He IS our QB, and Lawson never blew anybody away (FLASHES of brilliance won’t cut it) in spring ball….everyone said he played like a very talented freshman who needed some time…Maybe in a couple of weeks he makes it in, but for now it is B MOTLEY!!

  3. IMO, just start Lawson and play him , forget about the other two, that’s the route Lefty is heading for the starting QB to be. I don’t think Lawson is ready to play College ball right now. He is big and might have all the tools but is he College QB smart? Motley is in a No Win situation , the type of offense he played in High School is not the one Lefty uses at VT. If Lawson fails, we know then for sure before we head into the ACC part of our schedule…Thanks to both of you for a very good article.

  4. This feels more like a 21-12 win. Furman will be putting 8 in the box and blitzing on passing downs forcing Brenden to make quick decisions. Beamer loves to grind it out in these type of games with long processions. The only way we score more is if the defense gets us short fields to work. We haven’t been a dominate force in a long time.

    1. Totally agree…I could see a 20-7 score also. Whether win or lose Tech coaches have shown little indication they can have a team not flat coming off a high profile game. Witness Boise State/JMU & Ohio State/ECU.

      I predict an ugly game that will have the message brds rumbling.

        1. Have to agree with these guys. I don’t feel good about this. There’s the JMU affect (with no Tyrod Taylor). The offense will be RAGGGED, and he’ll the defense had got its own issues.

          A 2 TD win would be good.

    2. I totally agree with all of the above. Tech constantly plays down to its opponent, especially to lower level teams following a big game. I was in the stands at the 2010 JMU disaster. And that Tech team had much better talent than this one does.

      It amazes me that both of you (Chris and Will) continue to predict huge blow outs in situations like this. NO game is a gimme when it comes to Tech. I’m not trying to be “Negative Nellie” here, but it is hard to take any game for granted, especially one on a short week when you just lost your No. 1 QB!!

      Tech will more than likely win this one, but it wil be ugly and not a blowout.

      1. I believe it was rainy that day? Supposed to be rainy this Saturday as well! This feels all too much the same….

  5. Clearly Lawson is the future. Start him here on out and let him cut his teeth over the next four games v. Furman, Purdue, ECU and Pitt.

  6. I really worry about under sized lineman getting shoved into the knees of our players…friendly fire type of thing. One gets demolished so bad they end up being rolled into their teammate…. I hope that our ILB & newbies in the secondary can get things straightened out as well.

  7. Will, please tell me we’re not just going to run the ball. This game is the perfect opportunity for our passing-challenged QBs to get some passing experience. To run the ball this game just to get a quick win would be an epic failure on the coaches. It would be criminal, IMO.

    1. I did tell you that.

      “These are very different circumstances, though, and you would think that passing development with the young QBs has moved up the list in importance. This is about more than the W. “

      1. I know you and I both know it. I wish I could trust Frank…. This game sounds to me like he would love to go “3 yards and a cloud of dust” all day!

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