All three quarterbacks had multiple missed passes during the 2019 Virginia Tech Spring Game. One interception was thrown by Hendon Hooker, while Ryan Willis and Quincy Patterson missed on short passes early in the game. The quarterback group had a problem with telegraphing its passes, a mistake that could hurt the Hokies next season. However, all three players showed promise; each had a few nice plays creating first downs, forming momentum and scoring touchdowns. Patterson completed a 15-yard throw on the run that caught the crowd’s attention. All of Tech’s quarterbacks had touchdowns in Saturday’s scrimmage. After the Spring Game, there is still not a clear starter for the Hokies this fall.
In the beginning of the scrimmage, the running backs ran simple routes right up the middle for short gains. The start of the game was slow, but they began to find holes in the defense and create more opportunities to gain yardage. A new name projected over the loudspeaker was Caleb Steward, who had great vision and broke through the defense for a 40-yard run down the left side of the field. He will be a nice addition to the backs along with Deshawn McClease.
Other positions with slow starts were the receivers and tight ends. They were rarely passed to because of solid coverage and pressure on the quarterbacks. The momentum changed about a quarter of the way through the scrimmage as the quarterbacks began to gain more confidence and threw more often. The crowd heard familiar names such as Damon Hazelton and Hezekiah Grimsley, along with new ones like James Mitchell. The sophomore who played special teams last season had several receptions for first downs and positive yardage. As the game went on, the tight ends and receivers began to break away from the defensive backs and catch the ball in stride more often. There should be no worry about the receiver or tight end position this fall.
Throughout the entirety of the day, the offensive line was pushed around and allowed defensive players to find the quarterback. All three quarterbacks were forced out of the pocket often and threw off-balance because of the defense. The offensive line will be critical this year in protecting whichever mobile quarterback wins the starting job. The offensive line unit was effective in limiting sacks despite allowing pressure into the backfield on many plays.
The defensive line was one of the best groups on the field during the Spring Game. The unit held the running backs and quarterbacks to short gains and kept the offensive line on its toes. They cut off the ends and forced the QB out of the pocket showing the right instincts and decisions. The biggest concern will be replacing Ricky Walker in the trenches.
The linebackers did their jobs Saturday, attacking the ball and minimizing gains by the offense. There were few passes over the middle that were not batted down or tackled immediately. Rising sophomore Dax Hollifield will be a standout at the linebacker position this coming season.
The defensive backs started strong by locking up the receivers and allowing few receptions past the linebackers. The secondary played great coverage throughout most of the game, sliding when necessary and closing on throws and runs efficiently. The team had one interception, lots of defensive stops, kept the receivers on the outside with throws, and had very few slip-ups for large gains.
The kickers made two of four field goals during the special teams segment of the spring game. The punters had good distance on their kicks but lacked hang time to limit a big return. Overall, it was not a great performance by the special teams unit in the early spring scrimmage. Brian Johnson will likely return as the starting place kicker next fall. This will be a position group to improve upon in the offseason as the Hokies prepare for the 2019 football season.