Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
As we prepare to enter a college football season that will be unlike any we have seen before, Virginia Tech is entering with a mix of the expected and unexpected.
The expected came when Justin Fuente said that Hendon Hooker would be the starting quarterback if the Hokies played today, but the unexpected came from the fact that Fuente also stated that he plans to use backup Braxton Burmeister regularly.
Now it's important to note before getting into this that Fuente's reasoning is rooted in the fact that he feels both have earned the opportunity to play regular, meaningful snaps this fall rather than due to having a lack of an answer.
So with that in mind, here's my three thoughts on whether Hooker is the right choice, whether a two-QB system will work, and what this latest QB competition shows about Justin Fuente that is relatively unique in CFB.
1. Hendon Hooker as QB1 is the Right Call
No one was surprised by Hendon Hooker earning the starting quarterback job and though it may have been close, it's clear that Hooker is the right guy for the job.
It starts with the fact that though Burmeister has now been around for more than a year, Hooker still has a longer rapport with some of Tech's top guys and had almost a full season running the show with them while Burmeister had to sit out after transferring and rather than working with the first team offense, spent some of that time with the scout team.
In a unique offseason that saw the Hokies have no spring practice, it's a big plus to have a proven veteran in Hendon Hooker who has an on-field rapport with some key playmakers like Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson, and James Mitchell. Yes, there are plenty of new pieces including Raheem Blackshear and Changa Hodge but having some of those core connections and chemistry matters, and that's what Hooker can offer in addition to his talent.
Additionally, Hooker has proven that he can be the leader of the offense and ride the highs and lows. More than that, his teammates trust him which clearly helped the Hokies' offense take off when he took over the full time job against Miami.
Now this isn't to say that trust isn't there with Burmeister, but there's always going to be more natural trust in someone who has gone into battle and proven they have what it takes to lead you to victory.
Justin Fuente was wise to give Burmeister and Quincy Patterson the opportunity to see if they could pass Hooker but in the end, Fuente is going with the right guy who has proven to be the best QB for the Hokies currently based on what we know.
2. Two QB System With Hooker and Burmeister Doesn't Make Sense
The one surprising thing from Justin Fuente's comments was the fact that he seems committed to a legitimate two-quarterback system with Hooker and Braxton Burmeister. It's important to note that this is due to Fuente feeling both "deserve to play" and not because he doesn't feel good about what he has at QB.
That definitely gives a two-QB system better chances of working if the talent is higher but even with that, when have you ever seen a true two-QB system actually work really well at the highest levels of college football.
The only potential example may be Arkansas State that is trying to do a two-QB system given the talent they have there but at some point, you have to think they'll have to go with one guy just to give their offense some rhythm.
Now it isn't a bad idea to make sure that Burmeister does get some live game reps especially in games where the result is fairly certain especially in this unique season. However, there is no good reason to have some sort of regular two QB system especially when your top guy is someone like Hendon Hooker who more than proved himself to be a high-level playmaker in ACC action with only 2 interceptions to pair with his playmaking.
Additionally, it's not like there is much change when you go from Hooker to Burmeister either from what we know about both of them.
One of the other main reasons why you see teams go with a two QB system is because their backup brings something unique that can throw defenses off that their starter doesn't. An example of this is what Quincy Patterson can bring to the table as a big, physical quarterback that is a nightmare to bring down when running between the tackles. That isn't the case with Hooker and Burmeister, both of whom are dual-threat QBs who as runners are more speedy scramblers rather than power runners.
Of course, there is plenty of time to be proven wrong and it's possible that it'll be more like 90% Hooker with a little Burmeister sprinkled in rather than being close to a two-QB system. However, history shows that a true two-QB system with two talented guys rarely works or quickly becomes a one-man show under center.
3. Justin Fuente Does Well at Giving QBs' Opportunities
While many programs struggle to ensure they have the best starting quarterback, Justin Fuente has proven that he is one of the best at creating competition and not being afraid to make a QB change away from an incumbent starter when it makes sense.
Now that may seem like what should be obvious yet so many coaches seem to be hesitant to open that competition up in a legitimate way, potentially holding their team back.
Justin Fuente has proven to be one of the few coaches that is unafraid to truly embrace regular competition at the quarterback spot to make sure he has the best guy at the most important position even when you have a talented returner like Hendon Hooker. We've seen it plenty including with Ryan Willis (with Fuente changing QBs just a few games in last season) and Josh Jackson not having a guarantee of the starting job after returning from injury pre-transfer.
More than that, Fuente has established that regular, open competition at QB within the culture of his offense which has led to a calming of sorts in terms of QB transfers since the departure of Jackson, someone who was mostly recruited by Frank Beamer's staff but signed during Justin Fuente's transition class.
Fuente has been unafraid to have continual QB competitions to make sure he has the best guy under center unlike so many head coaches and because of it, it's meant the Hokies have more often than not always had their best QB as the starter.