When Josh Jackson went down, Ryan Willis did fairly well stepping up in Jackson’s absence throwing for 2,716 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. While Willis continues to appear to be the inevitable starter, Justin Fuente isn’t ready to publicly name him the 2019 starter just yet.
“Well, we’ll see how it all plays out through fall camp. Ryan was thrown into game action early in the season, at times played well, at times could have played better,” Fuente said on his evaluation of Willis’ performance last season.
While Fuente didn’t necessarily provide an indication of how well Willis has been doing throughout the offseason, senior safety Reggie Floyd has been impressed by hat he has seen from the redshirt senior QB.
“It’s great. Ryan is a very, very great quarterback. From just technique, and of course his vision, looking you off, giving you these different reads, making you second guess a couple of plays sometimes. Then his communication with his players on the offensive side is wonderful for everybody,” Floyd said.
That improvement appears to come in part from the experience that Willis gained taking over the offense last season, something that Fuente has admitted is a major benefit and advantage for Willis. Clearly, Willis has been putting in an effort not only to improve his own abilities but also build greater chemistry with the whole offensive unit and take on the natural leadership role a QB should.
For now though, Fuente is taking a similar approach that he did last summer in keeping the starting QB competition open despite having an incumbent starter. Part of this appears to be due to Fuente’s desire not only to make sure he is 100+% certain about Willis but also to create a competitive atmosphere that allows Fuente and his staff to evaluate the whole QB room.
“The key for us I think is to continue to evaluate that whole position. We have some young guys that have been working incredibly hard, too. We’ll see how they do through fall camp, kind of figure it out as we get into camp,” Fuente said.
Another reason why Justin Fuente is leaving the QB competition open, Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister.
Burmeister is just arriving on campus this offseason while he is also pursuing a waiver to gain immediate eligibility. With Fuente having not had the chance to work with Burmeister, it’s clear that Fuente wants to at least see what the Oregon transfer can offer, and whether he’ll receive a waiver, before making a public decision.
“We’ll see if Ryan (Willis) is a starter. Part of that deal is I have guys on our roster, one of whom you alluded to, that plays quarterback that I don’t know yet if he’s (Braxton Burmeiste’s) going to be eligible or not. I promised those guys opportunities to compete for the job. I don’t think it would be wise of me to close the job before I know who’s eligible to compete for it,” Fuente said.
Unsurprisingly, Justin Fuente is holding to the promises he made to continue the QB competition into the fall no matter if that competition technically goes till the week before the season or ends early in fall camp as was the case last season with the returning Josh Jackson.
Justin Fuente also knows that whether Ryan Willis is the starter as everyone expects or if someone else pulls off a major surprise and earns the starting QB job, that passer will have a great group of playmakers to work with headlined by Damon Hazelton, Dalton Keene, Tre Turner, and Hezekiah Grimsley.
“I am excited about the people we can put around whoever that quarterback is in terms of some wide receivers, running backs, tight ends. The direction we’re headed on the offensive line to hopefully to continue to increase our production,” Fuente said.
As Virginia Tech heads into season four of the Justin Fuente era, the Hokies appear poised for their best offensive season in almost a decade.