(Editor’s note: This is Part 8 in an 8 part series breaking down the 2018 Virginia Tech football team, position by position.)
BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson has earned the confidence of his teammates after a year under center.
“Josh, great guy, great player, smart, trusting,” defensive lineman Ricky Walker said. “Whenever I’m on the sideline and the offense is out there, it’s pretty much no worries when Josh is out there.”
Jackson is looking to build on the solid redshirt freshman campaign that saw him throw for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns – both school records for a freshman – starting all 13 games. He also ran for 324 yards last season with six touchdowns.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder is optimistic he’ll be able to carry the momentum into 2018 starting with the team’s opening night matchup against Florida State in Tallahassee. Jackson has mentioned the improvements he’s made getting the ball out faster and executing the team’s RPO (Run-Pass Option) calls in recent weeks.
“I’m a lot farther ahead,” Jackson said. “We put in so much during the season that when it comes to in installing plays in camp there isn’t a lot that is new, maybe a play or two. I’m definitely a lot farther along than last year.”
The coaching staff is also optimistic Jackson will be able to take the next step as long as the talented quarterback can nail down the details in year two.
“He’s got to make the routine plays,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said. “There were some big plays throughout the season that he can make, he didn’t make ’em all. He made some, he made his share of plays, but there were too many big, big plays in the pass game that were left out there unmade. He knows it. I think he took a step this spring, but that’s the biggest thing for him.”
Returners: QB Josh Jackson, QB Ryan Willis, QB Hendon Hooker
Newcomers: QB Quincy Patterson
Arms race: Virginia Tech has plenty of quarterbacks ready to step up if Josh Jackson falters.
Former Kansas starter Ryan Willis sat out last year working with the scout team as a transfer. Willis threw for a school record 1,719 yards with nine touchdowns in eight starts as a freshman. Hendon Hooker, an early-enrollee 4-star signee out of Dudley High School (N.C.), also spent 2017 patiently waiting on the bench.
They were joined by 4-star dual threat quarterback Quincy Patterson out of Solorio Academy (Chicago, Illinois) this spring.
“He’s good,” Jackson said of the true freshman. “He is a grown man. I think he said he just turned 18 and he’s 6 foot 4 inches tall and about 235 pounds. Throws the ball really well and he can run a little bit. He’s great and I just think he has the mindset to just better every day.”
Jackson is impressed, but he’s doing his best to make sure Patterson gets a little more time to develop before seeing meaningful game action.
“He has accuracy and touch,” Jackson said. “I think he said that he has thrown it 80 [yards] before. A lot farther than me, I think Ryan [Willis] can throw it about that far too, but I think he’ll continue to develop under coach [Brad] Cornelsen and coach [Justin] Fuente.”