What Virginia Tech Is Getting With Grant Wells

Grant Wells, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Wells currently sits atop the depth chart. (Jon Fleming)

As Hokie fans, it seems we’ve got two big questions about the abilities of new transfer quarterbacks Jason Brown and Grant Wells. First, how good are they? And second, how do they compare to each other? We looked at Brown here, now let’s move on to Wells.

If Jason Brown’s season verged on being the football equivalent of a no-win scenario, then Grant Wells’ season would’ve been tagged by most Marshall fans as a failure if he did anything other than have a great year. Wells was coming off a record-setting first year as a starter, he was in the same offensive system, he had a great supporting cast (as it turns out, maybe better than even fans realized), he was playing in Conference USA, and there wasn’t a single P5 team on the schedule.

Aside from the difficulty level, maybe the biggest difference between scouting the two quarterbacks is the amount of experience they have. As a P5 starter, Brown won his opener with solid play against Florida, then struggled against two SEC defenses and Clemson. That’s all we got on him. With Grant Wells, the window is bigger—he started for two seasons at Marshall—but the view isn’t as helpful as I’d like it to be. His first season as a starter was mercurial, with him bombing three bad teams—EKU, UMass, and MTSU—for 11 of his 18 touchdowns, and most of his highlight-reel clips from that year. If you casually watched those highlights and nothing else, you might come away thinking the Hokies had grabbed an under-the-radar Chad Pennington. But those highlights were balanced by poor games against FAU, UAB, Buffalo, and Rice; the worst was Rice, where he had four picks that were his fault and no touchdowns.

His second year is a more balanced picture, with only two bad PFF scores in the bunch (and only one of those games was actually subpar), but none of the blowout performances of the prior year. The good news for Hokie fans is that he was a better quarterback in his second year. His PFF offensive grades went up a hair and his turnover-worthy play percentage went down, despite playing a tougher schedule. His touchdowns dropped, but you can probably pick any game out of the season and see it was more about running back Rasheen Ali being a prolific scorer himself. Wells’ overall picks were up, but as a percentage of his passes, his interceptions actually went down a touch…and again, this was against tougher overall competition. Out of all the quarterbacks in Conference USA, he had probably the third- or fourth-best season. Going by PFF, his grades were about the same as N’Kosi Perry’s, a Miami castoff you might remember, who lead FAU’s offense.

If you want to compare stats and grades for Wells and Brown, by the numbers, Wells had the better season year. Wells averaged 270 yards per game and had a turnover-worthy play percentage of 3.1%, and he had a solid PFF grade of 74.9. Brown averaged 147 yards per game and had a turnover-worthy play percentage of 7.9% in his four starts, and his season-long PFF grade was a poor 50.3.

But during the entire season, Wells only once played a defense approaching those Brown faced. That would be Marshall’s bowl game against Louisiana-Lafayette, a team stocked with guys who had SEC experience or offers. A runner-up to the difficult defense crown would be UAB, which had some similar talent. Wells struggled