Hendon Hooker Showed Why He Should've Started Against North Carolina

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Oct 12, 2020
Photo Credit: ACC Media

Normally, I'd include this in my weekly offensive takeaways but there was one thing that was very clear after Virginia Tech's loss at North Carolina.

Hendon Hooker should've started against UNC.

Now that may be the captain obvious statement of the week but that seemed like the better decision before the game especially given what we saw in the previous game from Braxton Burmeister and what we knew going in about Hendon Hooker.

After the Duke game, it became clear to many that Braxton Burmeister was limited as a passer with questionable arm strength that forced him to be smart about where he was throwing the ball if he wanted to have success building any sort of vertical passing game.

Yes Burmeister is a gamer and unlimited as a running threat, but he's limited as a passer, especially compared to Hendon Hooker.

Hooker is a very good runner, but he has proven to be a legitimate dual-threat who has the arm talent to stretch the field with plus accuracy and good arm strength placing the ball at times. Tech's offense has also shown in the past that they need a QB who can provide a legitimate, vertical passing threat, something that guys like Jerod Evans were able to and Ryan Willis struggled with during the 2019 season.

While Burmeister did have the momentum coming off two-straight wins, all the evidence pointed to Hooker as being the clearly better fit for the Hokies' offense based what we had seen with both quarterbacks. Plus, Hooker is more than proven to be a major winner for the Hokies at QB with a 6-2 record last season where he showed he was one of the conference's best QBs.

Tech could have also had Burmeister ready in case Hooker wasn't in good enough game shape knowing that their offense can still be solid with the Oregon transfer in the game. Game shape was undoubtedly a factor in holding Hooker back but then again, Tech also was unafraid to start guys on defense who just got out of quarantine the day before the game.

Instead, Fuente and the Hokies went with Burmeister with Tech's offense having some success but plenty of struggles due to his limitations as a passer allowing UNC to bring more into the box and around the line of scrimmage.

That led to the halftime change to Hooker with the Hokies' offense thriving after that on their way to 45 points including 31 in the second half, 23 of which came in the third quarter.

Tech's offense was also much more efficient when the redshirt junior QB from Greensboro, NC was on the field.

The numbers clearly back how Hooker was better and the eye test did as well as Tech had an effective, vertical passing attack that forced UNC to not load the box as much. That opened up more space for Khalil Herbert and Tech's offensive line to wear down UNC's defense and get their running game to the next level with Herbert rushing for over 100 yards in the second half including his 52-yard touchdown.

Additionally, you could just see the confidence that Brad Cornelsen has a playcaller in Hendon Hooker to execute a more varied passing attack that pushed the ball down the field. Compare that to the playcalling we saw for Braxton Burmeister which rarely saw much in the vertical passing attack on a regular basis outside of a verts play that looks like it's from NCAA 14.

In many ways, it seemed like Cornelsen and Fuente untied their own hands from behind their back in the second half by going with the more experienced and better passer in Hooker, and as we all saw, Tech's offense thrived because of it.

There's a reason why Justin Fuente was certain of Hendon Hooker being the #1 quarterback prior to Hooker having to miss some time as some medical things were sorted out. Unsurprisingly, Hooker is back as the Hokies' starting QB with Fuente announcing just that today at his weekly press conference.

Going forward, expect it to be the Hendon Hooker show from the start as it should have been this past Saturday, and for all four quarters.

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