HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer
Virginia Tech’s two-way battle at quarterback job is now a three-way race with freshman Josh Jackson having played himself into the mix.
First-year Hokies coach Justin Fuente said Jackson, a dual-threat from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has had “a really good camp and a great summer.”
“Don’t over-react to what I’m saying,” Fuente added of the competition that opened with fifth-year senior Brenden Motley and junior Jerod Evans, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. “I still don’t know what way it’s going to go, but he’s had a really good camp.”
Jackson has elevated his status by taking care of Fuente’s three priorities for the position, the coach said.
“I think he’s done the three things that we have set out for those guys to do,” Fuente said. “I’m not saying that he is doing it on a more consistent basis than anybody else. I’m just saying he is doing things more consistently than he did in the spring in terms of valuing the football, managing the ups and downs in practice and predicting outcomes — distributing the ball in the places it’s supposed to go. We’ll see how it goes. I’m encouraged by all three. All three work hard.”
The winner of the quarterback derby will lead an offense expected to be fast-paced and with multiple skills players being shuffled in and out of the lineup. It’s a departure from last season, Frank Beamer’s last, when wide receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips, tight end Bucky Hodges and running back Sam Rogers all played extensively.
Motley started six games a year ago, throwing for 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He was third on the team with 224 yards rushing, but has known since after spring practice that the battle for the starting job would continue into preseason camp.
Still, he said, playing at Virginia Tech has been his goal since high school and transferring never entered his mind.
“Obviously I could have gone up and left, ran away because my coach wasn’t there anymore,” he said of Beamer, who retired after last season. “But I kind of hold myself to loyalty and staying with what I believe in, fighting. … I just wanted to stay a fight and hopefully get my opportunity when it comes.”
Evans, originally recruited by Fuente at Memphis, threw for 38 touchdowns with just three interceptions in eight games before getting hurt.
Jackson, the son of a football coach, threw for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 470 yards and eight scores in high school last season.
All three are learning a new offense, and Fuente said it’s possible more than one quarterback will play to start the season. The Hokies open at home against Liberty on Sept. 3, then will play one of the biggest games of the season the following week against Tennessee before 150,000 fans at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I can foresee any scenario,” Fuente said. “I am hopeful that in the next week that I can see potential scenarios more clearly. Does that leave it open-ended enough? We still have a lot of evaluation left. We still have work to do.”
Jackson’s rise in stature didn’t come as a surprise to Evans.
“I think the quarterback (unit) as a whole is growing up and maturing,” he said. “I think we have a long way to go. We have a lot to learn and we still have things we need to work on as a group, but everyone is definitely moving in the right direction.”
Even if the number of challengers for the team’s most important position is growing rather than shrinking.
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