Thursday, June 22, 2017

Who will be QB1 for Virginia Tech in 2017?

One of the biggest questions I have been asked this offseason is, who will be the starting quarterback for the Hokies this year? That is probably the biggest question mark the Hokies have facing them this offseason. But I have absolute confidence that Justin Fuente will put the best QB on the field when the Hokies take on the Mountaineers to start the season. However, let's dive in to the pros and cons of each possible quarterback that could start for the Hokies. Then, I will give my two cents on who I believe will be the starter week one.

Joshua Jackson - Redshirt Freshman

Josh Jackson was a four star recruit out of Michigan that was one of former Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's best recruits. Jackson is the son of a former Michigan University coach and has a very high football IQ. Jackson is very smart with the football and will stand in the pocket and take a hit. He is extremely underrated as a runner and can throw very well on the run.

If you watch just a little bit of his Senior year highlight video, you can see what I mean by not afraid to take a hit. Jackson time and time again stays in there till the last second and will deliver a strike to his receiver. He doesn't have that "cannon arm" that so many people crave, but he throws a very nice ball and puts it right where his receivers can get it. For whatever reason, here lately a lot of people have been downing Jackson and wondering if he has what it takes to be a good quarterback. I personally don't understand why they would think that. This guy gives you just about everything you need. He doesn't seem to turn it over very often, he knows the playbook very well, and he can move enough to get out of trouble and to keep the play alive. Jackson also has a year of experience in Fuente's system and let's not forget Jackson was in the mix to play last year as a true Freshman.

A.J. Bush - Junior 

A.J. Bush became the second JUCO quarterback transfer to join the Hokies under Justin Fuente. Bush comes from Iowa Western Community College where he played only one year, tallying 602 yards passing and 265 yards rushing. The former Nebraska quarterback arrived at Iowa Western CC late and had to push to even see the field. It was very apparent that he arrived late as he threw 8 interceptions in very limited time over 10 games. When you look at the physical tools Bush brings it is very impressive. Listed at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Bush is another tall and big body quarterback that shows the mold that Fuente likes to have. Bush was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school but after not seeing time at Nebraska, he decided to transfer. In the very limited action we saw out of him in the Spring game, Bush is an extremely talented athlete. He is quick and can get the ball out of his hand fast. I don't believe Bush will be able to come in and have the impact that Jerod Evans had last year for the Hokies, but I think Bush can provide some very solid depth. But if there was one thing that worries me about him, it is the turnovers. The Hokie offense this year will be very young and cannot afford to turn the ball over. His highlight tape shows that athletic ability and it also shows that if the pocket breaks down he is quick to escape. If the offensive line for the Hokies has problems protecting, Bush could be the guy for Virginia Tech.

Hendon Hooker- Freshman

A four start recruit out of Greensboro, NC, Hooker seems to have a very bright future ahead of him. At 6'4" Hooker has the height that Fuente seems to like but weighing only 196 lbs., Hooker needs some time in the weight room. He did enroll in January which will pay huge dividends down the road not only mentally but physically as well. Hooker did play in the spring game and out of all the quarterbacks, he probably had the best statistical day. However, it should be noted that most of his reps came against a very young second-string defense. Hooker did look very comfortable and has great speed. He throws a very nice ball and seems to work through his progression fairly well for a true freshman. But, in the limited time he did see against the first-string defense, he threw an interception. I really like what Hooker can bring to the table, but I would like to see him redshirt this year and add some weight. It wouldn't surprise me if Fuente decided to play the true freshman this year, similar to what he did with Paxton Lynch at Memphis, but I think Hooker will redshirt this year and be available in emergency situations only. Have no fear Hokies, this guy could be the "chosen one!" Just take a look at his highlight film and you can see what a bright future this kid brings to the table.

Who starts week one?

Now that we have looked at who the candidates are for quarterback this year, I believe Josh Jackson will be taking the snaps week one. I have been high on Jackson since the Hokies signed him. He has excellent composure in the pocket and can extend the play with his feet when he needs to. No, he doesn't have the speed that Tyrod Taylor had, but I compare him more to what Bryan Randall brought to the table. Someone who likes to stand in the pocket and throw, but if the pocket breaks down, he can keep the play alive. Jackson seems to really protect the football and not turn it over very often. This is a huge advantage when playing for Justin Fuente. Fuente has said on multiple occasions that he values a quarterback who protects the ball. Jackson can also still provide that inside q
uarterback run that Evans was so effective with last season. This can help if the offense continues to struggle to run the ball this season. Would I be surprised if Fuente went another direction this fall? No. But I think Jackson brings the experience and composure needed to be the starter for the Hokies this season. Of course, none of this will matter if the receivers for the Hokies can't get open, but more on that later.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Analyzing Virginia Tech's 2017 Schedule

I would first like to start by saying thank you to everyone who is checking out my new blog "The South End Zone." If you used to follow me in the past welcome back and if you are new, welcome to my blog! For everyone new, my name is Adam and I am a sports junkie. Specially, Virginia Tech football. I will use this platform to cover many other sports but mainly we will dive into the world that is Virginia Tech Hokies football. To kick things off and to give you all a chance to pass the time in this boring part of the offseason, we will take a look at Virginia Tech's 2017 schedule.

Game One - West Virginia

Virginia Tech starts the season playing an old rival at a place where the Hokies have never been successful, FedEx Field. The Hokies are 0-3 all time at FedEx field, a "neutral site" stadium that is right in the heart of a huge Virginia Tech alumni base. All three games played at FedEx the Hokies have had huge crowd advantages, but it has never seemed to matter as Tech has lost all three contests in very heartbreaking fashion. But the Hokie Nation hopes that begins to change this year when second year head coach, Justin Fuente leads his squad on to the field to face the Mountaineers.

This shapes up to be a very good game that could also be very high scoring. West Virginia hopes to have quarterback Will Grier back from suspension to lead a very pass heavy offense that can light up a scoreboard quick. But the Hokies have something no other school has, Bud Foster. Returning seven starters, the defense for Virginia Tech looks to be a special one this year. Plus we all know what happens if you give Foster a summer to game plan for your offense, it usually isn't a good thing for the opposing team.

The Hokies are also breaking in a new quarterback, that has yet to be named. All signs lead toward redshirt freshman Joshua Jackson being the signal caller but as we learned last year, we won't know until close to game time. Tech has plenty of pieces to replace on offense but if there is something I have learned from Justin Fuente so far, never count out his ability to game plan.

This should be a great game to get the season rolling for the Hokies and should be an interesting game to attend as a fan (everyone who has ever experienced West Virginia fans understands where I'm coming from). I'm hoping coach Fuente can be the one to break the curse and deliver a victory to all the NOVA Hokies. I'll take Virginia Tech in a second half defensive battle, 24-17.

Game Two - Delaware 

Unfortunately for Delaware, Joe Flacco isn't coming out of the tunnel for the Blue Hen's that day. Virginia Tech will look to use this game to get better and get younger guys valuable reps. This could be very sloppy at first following the Sunday night battle with West Virginia, but I will take Virginia Tech, 42-10.

Game Three - East Carolina

The Hokies travel once again to Greenville, NC to take on the pesky pirates. In a series that all Tech fans are wishing was over the Hokies hold the advantage. Yes ECU got a few wins over the years, but the Hokies now are starting to flex some muscle. This staff just plain knows how to take advantage of mismatches and talent advantages. It showed last year when Tech beat down ECU and I believe it happens again this year. Hokies win, 42-21.

Game Four - Old Dominion 

The Monarchs are still very new to FBS football but last year they did go and win a bowl game. They have a very good offense that will put points on just about anyone. The Hokies could have a very sneaky opponent here. ODU will be looking to let everyone know that they belong and can hang with anyone in the state of Virginia. I could easily see this game being close until late in the 3rd or early in the 4th quarter. However, Virginia Tech does have a talent advantage here and this staff completely understands how to use that to their advantage. Hokies win, 38-20.

Game Five - Clemson

This needs no explanation. The Tigers are the defending ACC and National Champions, although they are missing DeShaun Watson, the Tigers are still one of the best in the Nation. Don't forget though Virginia Tech was driving to win late in the game last year in the ACC Championship. I think this game will be close and the atmosphere should be one to remember in Lane Stadium, but I do believe the Tigers will prevail. Clemson wins, 31-28.

Game Six - Boston College

Virginia Tech absolutely land blasted the Eagles last year. Fuente and company put on an offensive clinic against a very solid BC defense. I don't expect this year to be any different. The Eagles just don't have much of anything to work with offensively and good field position will allow the Hokies to put points up once again. Hokies win, 45-7.

Game Seven - North Carolina

Stop me if you've heard this before, "UNC would have beat Tech if it wasn't raining." Give me a break, the Hokies took the Heels to the woodshed last year. Foster toyed with a highly overrated Mitch Trubisky and made him look like he had never played football before. Let me tell you a little secret, Tech would have whooped the Tar Heels in nice weather as well. But enough about that. UNC will be looking to get revenge on the Hokies this year but once again, Bud Foster will be the deciding factor in this game. Hokies win, 35-17.

Game Eight - Duke

I'm not sure why but I feel like Duke could get the best of the Hokies this year. David Cutcliffe is the most underrated coach in college football. He seems to be one of the few coaches who effectively knows how to coach against Bud Foster. Even in last year's win against Duke, Virginia Tech struggled to consistently slow down the Blue Devils. Making matters worse, Daniel Jones is back and ready to build on his impressive Freshman campaign. I'm back and forth on this game but since it is in Blacksburg, Hokies win, 34-31.

Game Nine - Miami 

This game just doesn't look good for Virginia Tech. I have always felt Mark Richt was done wrong by Georgia. All the guy did was win 10 games basically every year. If the fans would have just had a little more patience, they would have probably reached the promise land. But be it as it may, he is now coaching the Hurricanes. Miami should be very good this year and contend to win the Coastal. I don't feel good about the Tech offense having to play a Miami defense that is much older this year. I can't stand Miami but I believe the Hurricanes get the Hokies, 34-17.

Game Ten - Georgia Tech

There is really no reason why Virginia Tech should have lost to the Yellow Jackets last year. Everything was in the Hokies favor but it just seemed the team didn't show up to play. Justin Fuente will be sure to remind his team about last year's game before this one. I think Bud's group puts the hammer down and the offense does enough to keep the defense rested. Hokies win, 24-10.

Game Eleven - Pittsburgh

Last year Justin Fuente successfully got rid of one Virginia Tech curse, Heinz Field. The Hokies won in a shootout and everyone got to continue to ask themselves how Pat Narduzzi keeps a job when he acts like a 12-year-old? I believe Justin Fuente shows Narduzzi how to act like a man and the Hokies win in another high scoring affair, 45-38.

Game Twelve - Virginia

13 straight wins for the Hokies, need I say more? Virginia Tech has flat dominated the Hoos' and it won't be any different this year. I'm sorry UVA fans, the talent level just isn't there and by this time of the year the Hokie offense will be firing on all cylinders. Hokies pull away in the second half, 35-10.

Final Recap

That brings the Hokies to a season record of 10-2. Looking at it on paper, this makes sense. But we all know that these games aren't won on paper. I think realistically Virginia Tech probably finishes 9-3 or maybe 8-4, as I believe there will be at least one game where they just don't show up. I do think that after the regular season the Hokies put themselves in great position to win the Coastal Division but it depends on what happens with the rest of the division before we know for sure. Either way, I believe after this season, Hokie Nation begins to see what Fuente's plan is to start competing again for National Championships. Buckle up Hokie fans the next five year's are going to be really fun.