Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 11 No. 5 | May 2019

22 Inside Hokie Sports RYAN WILLIS 2 Hendon Hooker (6-4, 225, r-So.) 4 Quincy Patterson II (6-4, 236, r-Fr.) 5 Ryan Willis (6-4, 223, r-Sr.) 9 Luke Bussel (6-1, 204, Fr.) Quarterbacks Tech head coach Justin Fuente did not name a starting quarterback at the conclusion of spring football practice, preferring instead to let the trio vying for the position compete throughout the summer and into preseason practices. Those who attended the Spring Game, though, probably came away with the feeling that Ryan Willis had all but wrapped up the battle. Willis threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers and looked comfortable running the Hokies’ attack. He looked like an ever better version of the guy who stepped in for an injured Josh Jackson this past fall and threw for 2,716 yards, with 24 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Now granted, he wasn’t live in the Spring Game, and he wasn’t live at any point all spring. But Tech’s staff made that decision because they wanted to protect him—and probably their chances for success this fall. “I’ve seen him live for a whole season,” Fuente said. “He went live all year. I know what he can do.” “I know what I’m doing,” Willis said during a news conference just a few days before the Spring Game. “I know our offense pretty well. It’s not so much what our guys are doing. I’m looking at what the defense is doing. That’s where I’m trying to improve the most. “I’m just more comfortable in the system. Confidence has never been an issue. I feel good with what I’m doing. Everything is operating well. If I’m not worrying about what I’m doing, I’ve got more time to check on other guys and make sure they’re lined up the right way. Just simple things like that. I’m trying to get a better overall understanding of just the game itself.” Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson II also made strides this spring. Unfortunately, both of them missed some valuable practice time with injuries, as Hooker missed a Saturday scrimmage with a sprained ankle, and Patterson suffered a cut on his index finger that limited his ability to throw the ball with accuracy. In the Spring Game, Patterson threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score in a goal- line situation. But most felt Hooker played more consistently in the game, though he didn’t throw a touchdown pass or rush for a score. On one drive when the offense started at its own 1, Hooker led the unit on an impressive 88-yard march that ended with a Brian Johnson field goal. “I feel like he’s getting better,” Fuente said. “I see him flipping protections, and I saw a couple of times [in the Spring Game] he kept his eyes down field and moved in the pocket a little bit, and he completed a long throw to the field, which I was encouraged by. Those are plays that aren’t easy to make, so I’ve been pleased with him continuing to understand. He’s got to keep his focus, which sounds so simple, on his fundamentals on a consistent basis while he’s trying to execute what we’re asking him to do.” Fuente spoke positively of Patterson as well, saying that he played faster this spring. But he needs to improve his accuracy as a passer. He probably had a longer way to go than the others because he played in a run- oriented offense in high school. “I definitely think I have a lot of improvement to make,” Patterson said after the Spring Game. “I think even anyone who has been in a system that was pass dominant would have a lot of work to do, but I definitely have a lot of work to do. I’ve been training. I’ve been here for a while, so they’ve [Tech’s coaches] been pushing me in that direction, knowing that my high school wasn’t that type of school [a passing offense]. I definitely can’t use that as an excuse as to why I’m only running the ball here. It’s my job to make sure that I take that next step and be that person that can really do everything.” “We’re still trying to figure out what type of quarterback he is going to be,” Fuente admitted. “We’re still evaluating … I really like what Hendon can do and some of the progress that he’s making. I see him out there, standing behind him, and I see him making good decisions. I see Quincy, at times, being able to play faster, and Ryan needs to continue to be more consistent. So they kind of all have their challenges.” The Hokies expect to have some nice skill pieces this upcoming season, particularly at the receiver and tight end positions. The offensive line returns some key parts, too. This offense could be more explosive. But that hinges on the quarterback position. And judging from spring practice, this group appears to be moving in the right direction.