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William Watson III Asserts Himself as Virginia Tech's QB3 After Strong Spring

William Watson III 1 Spring Game 2023 From VT

The expected transfer portal churn has kicked into full gear for Virginia Tech this week with the window to enter the portal and be eligible for next season only open for a few more days. Part of that has included churn in the quarterback room as reserve QBs Devin Farrell and Tahj Bullock have entered the portal.

Bullock's entrance isn't a surprise to anyone especially after he fell behind the redshirt freshman Farrell on the QB depth chart last season. Meanwhile, Farrell's entrance may have been a surprise to some given that he seemed in line to be the future beyond Grant Wells and Kyron Drones.

However, there was some talk that Tech's long-term future at QB was trending in a different direction with the man for that future being clear now: William "Pop" Watson III.

This shouldn't come as a shocker in many ways. Tech was quietly trying to flip Watson for months before it went public in December when they flipped him from Nebraska less than three weeks before National Signing Day. This came even as the Hokies already had a QB committed in Dylan Wittke, showing how highly they regarded the talent of Watson.

Once on campus, it didn't take long for Watson to start turning heads. An early indicator that Watson was on the rise came after Tech's open to the public spring practice on March 25th when head coach Brent Pry was asked the QB battle between Grant Wells and Kyron Drones, and had the following response.

"I think Grant's throwing the ball really well. Kyron has done some things athletically that are very impressive. I think Pop has made some throws, we had a couple drops today that should have been completions where he put the ball where it needed to be," Pry said.

Now no one was saying Watson was a contender for the starting QB job, but the fact that Pry made note of Watson on a question focused on Wells vs Drones was a public indicator that the Massachusetts native was rising up the depth chart.

The next big indicator came a few weeks later at the Spring Game when Watson had a very good performance going 3-4 for 49 yards including a nice 39-yard touchdown pass to Tucker Holloway plus 27 rushing yards on 3 carries. After the game, Brent Pry's comments about Watson's play made it clear how highly the Hokies' head coach viewed his Northeastern early enrollee QB.

“He was pretty poised all spring, he’s a confident kid and has a lot of savviness. He can do it with his feet and can throw it well.” Pry said.

Watson's play in the Spring Game even gained some national college football media attention both from former NFL TE and prominent podcaster Adam Brenaman and College Football Network's Oliver Hodgkinson who also contributes to Pro Football Network.

Now this is usually where I would say something like 'the Spring Game is only 1 of 15 data points in spring practice' which to be clear is very much the truth still. Additionally, when you are doing a straight roster split, you can end up with some weird, irrelevant roster matchups that can favor certain players over others.

However, the biggest indication that this was more than just one really good day came this past week when Watson's older competition for the 2023 QB3 job and the long-term starting job both entered the portal.

Bullock's portal entrance seemed inevitable if he didn't have a big spring after falling behind the younger Farrell last fall, but Farrell's was not one many would have likely projected entering the spring after being QB3 last season over Bullock.

Instead, the early enrollee Watson emerged from this spring as the clear QB3 and long-term future starting QB (yes, you do have Dylan Wittke who has loads of upside but seems to have some catching up to do currently).

While it may be a surprise to what you would have expected entering the spring, maybe it shouldn't have been.

When you watch the tape on Watson, you see a player who has the type of creative playmaking skills that not too many quarterbacks have. In my analysis of Watson, I mentioned that his game film reminded me some stylistically of Johnny Manziel given how well he not only eludes the pocket but also how he actually doesn't just tuck it and run on scrambles. On some plays, you can already see an awareness beyond his years to keep his eyes downfield and look for open receivers on what are usually broken plays where talented QBs can turn duds into big gains.

Watson doing that at the rate he did in high school was a tremendous sign that this kid had some big time potential. Of course, the level of competition gave you some pause to want to see him get to Blacksburg and face some tougher competition. However, now that he's been through spring practice and performed as he has, that level of competition concern doesn't seem nearly as big.

William Watson III showed this spring why he earned the nickname "Pop" as a player whose play pops every time he steps onto the football field. And after only one spring in Blacksburg, he's already made it clear that he not only should be QB3 for 2023, but is also the long-term future starting quarterback for the Hokies.

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