Many Virginia Tech fans were surprised when star quarterback Jerod Evans announced that he would a year early to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Evans’s decision left a huge opening at the quarterback spot with backup Brenden Motley graduating, creating a huge window of opportunity for the last on-scholarship quarterback recruited by the previous staff.
That man is Josh Jackson.
Jackson has been in Justin Fuente’s system for just about a full year now after arriving early last spring and proving to at worst be the third best quarterback on the roster that spring while showing off tons of potential and at times looked like the Hokies’ best QB in the Spring Game though his performance came against guys fairly far down the Hokies’ defensive depth chart. Some wondered if Jackson could even get in the quarterback battle, but that still seemed unrealistic.
However, Josh Jackson was the surprise of the fall when Justin Fuente announced that Jackson had joined Evans and Motley in the starting quarterback battle before Evans won the starting quarterback battle within two weeks before the opener against Liberty. However, Jackson’s rise did some damage to the Hokies’ QB depth as Dwayne Lawson realized that his goal of being a starting QB wasn’t gong to happen in Blacksburg and decided to transfer to the JUCO level before signing with Illinois after the JUCO season.
Throughout most of the season, the Hokies had Jackson dressed out and ready to go in case of emergency but continued to keep him on the sideline to allow themselves to redshirt Jackson before committing fully to redshirting Jackson near the end of the season.
Now, Jackson enters this spring as a redshirt freshman with a full year of experience under his belt and a huge opportunity now that Jerod Evans has decided to leave early for the NFL Draft.
Josh Jackson will have some competition this spring from Hendon Hooker who has decided to enroll early, which will help his chances, and was the top QB target in the 2017 for the current coaching staff. Despite this, Jackson still enters with a big advantage with this also being an almost ideal opportunity for him to earn the starting job especially since Hooker will not only be learning a new playbook but also having to adjust to the collegiate level in practices.
Jackson also has shown plenty of potential to be a very good quarterback and it starts with the fact that during the Spring Game, he looked like the most accurate QB. Jackson’s accuracy is likely a big reason why he had a chance to win the starting quarterback job and is something that will give him a leg up on most quarterbacks that could be brought in to compete against him.
Jackson also showed some good pocket awareness and poise to make passes during the Spring Game along with having the mobility to be able to extend plays outside the pocket or even get a few yards on the ground. However, Jackson is not nearly the same mobile threat as the big, physical Jerod Evans and won’t be a guy that runs for 600-800 yards a season and that is one area where Hendon Hooker will have an advantage.
Jackson also showed a good amount of poise and pocket awareness this past season which is an important skill that even Jerod Evans had a few issues with when putting his head down and trying to escape the pocket when the best option was to just throw the ball away. Jackson also has the advantage of having worked with a QB guru in Justin Fuente for just about a year now and that provides tons of benefits.
Jackson also likely did some scout team work along with working with the first and second team offenses this past fall in addition to the practice time he got last spring that should mean he has a good rapport and good chemistry with the young outside receivers that whoever is QB will be looking to like Phil Patterson, Divine Deablo, and Eric Kumah.
One other big advantage that makes this Jackson’s biggest window of opportunity in theory is the fact that this staff will only have one of their quarterback recruits on the roster in a true freshman Hendon Hooker that hasn’t spent any time being coached by the staff yet while any transfer or JUCO will also be in the same situation and likely won’t arrive till the summer.
While Jackson isn’t this staff’s recruit, he is the on-scholarship guy that has been coached by them the most and that will prove important at least early on to give Jackson a lead. Whether Jackson can hold on to that lead or grow it remains to be seen but given the way he gave Jerod Evans and Brenden Motley a run for the job this past fall, Jackson can absolutely do just that once again.
Josh Jackson’s window of opportunity is wide open now for him to earn the starting job with Jackson showing plenty of promise to make you think that not only can he win the starting job, but that he can also be a very productive quarterback that has also had the chance to be developed by one of the best QB gurus in college football.
This is Jackson’s big window of opportunity and while the fan hype will likely surround Hooker given how he’s Fuente recruit, no one should be surprised if Jackson ends up not only being the starter but winning this job in the spring and being a very productive starter next fall on a Virginia Tech team that will have a strong defense ready to support a young offense.