It's Friday, TKPers, and the Hokies trotted out the quarterbacks to the media for the first time in fall camp, so strap in.
Well, maybe don't buckle up too tightly, because Justin Fuente didn't reveal much that we didn't already know about the QB battle, nor did any of the contenders themselves (though I can assume Jack Click's absence was solely due to a class schedule conflict and he remains in the thick of things).
Let's dive in, shall we?
A.J. Bush, Top Athlete on the Squad?
That's just what Fuente suggested about the JUCO transfer in Friday's media availability, calling the former Nebraska prospect the most athletically gifted player in the QB room, and perhaps on the entire team.
Bush is listed at 6'4" and 225 pounds, so the guy doesn't lack for size, but Fuente also was sure to praise his speed. He was quick to note that Hendon Hooker is no slouch either — and the freshman told reporters that he's packed on 20 pounds since enrolling at Tech — but the head Hokie was unequivocal in his praise for Bush.
We are truly getting deep into speculation territory here, considering that Fuente remains adamant that he has no timetable to make any decision on a starter, yet it is still worth mentioning that athleticism does seem to be a necessary attribute for any starter in a Fuente system.
OC Brad Cornelsen and Fuente seemed perfectly content to turn over the bulk of the running duties to Jerod Evans last year, and the offense is certainly predicated on the QB presenting some form of running threat. If his Hokie Sports page is any indication, Bush did plenty of work on the ground in his high school days in Georgia, so it isn't crazy to start connecting dots here.
As I mentioned in the very first Tech Tidbits, it seems foolish to assume that any one of the quarterbacks is out of the mix until Fuente says so, and that definitely goes for Bush (even though he hasn't gotten the same level of hype as Hooker or Josh Jackson thus far).
Bush says he's athletic enough to school his fellow QBs in pickup basketball — though any mention of football players heading to McComas in their spare time gives me Antone Exum flashbacks — and Fuente is more than willing to beat the drum on his behalf.
Mind games, or something meaningful? Still too early to know, though Fuente suggested that a scrimmage later this afternoon should provide the staff some more clarity on where things stand among the top three contenders for the starting spot under center.
Steven Peoples, Running Back?
Fuente says sometime fullback, sometime H-back and full-time Frank Beamer favorite Steven Peoples is "solely working at tailback" in fall camp, which is quite interesting indeed.
Just a few days ago I discussed in this very space my high hopes for Jalen Holston based on Fuente's early comments, and while RBs coach Zohn Burden had some kind words of his own for the freshman Friday, it's a bit eyebrow-raising that Peoples seems to be sticking at running back.
After all, a big part of why I reasoned Holston could be a better fit for the offense than Travon McMillian is his versatility and ability to get involved in the passing attack. While Peoples definitely showed more of a proclivity for the passing game last year than I might've expected — he only had two receptions, one for a 13-yard TD and a 27-yarder — I still thought it more likely that he'd hang around at FB/HB to replace some of what Sam Rogers brought to the table.
Instead, perhaps Fuente sees him as a valuable option to chip in on a more regular basis. That could reduce the team's need to play Holston right away, and it raises some intriguing questions about the future of the H-back spot.
Maybe Chris Cunningham's role expands, after a touchdown-laden first season? Or perhaps promising freshmen Dalton Keene and Drake DeIuliis get in on the action? In case you haven't checked the roster lately, the former is registered at 6'4" and 240 pounds, and the latter is 6'5" and 235 — Ben Hilgart is no joke.
In any case, I'd expect there's plenty more depth chart shuffling left to come at RB, and this is certainly an interesting wrinkle to consider as Sept. 3 gets closer.
A Scheduling Counterargument
I haven't seen quite the same level of online vitriol directed toward Whit Babcock's decision late last month to add more games to Tech's series with Liberty as there was, say, about the seemingly endless series of East Carolina contracts.
But it was awful close, and that's why I think it's worth highlighting this column from the ever-insightful David Teel of the Daily Press.
The whole thing is worth reading, but his central argument is that Babcock is weighing a whole series of factors in his move to set so many future dates against in-state Liberty (and ODU), beyond simply considering how excited fans will be for those particular match-ups.
Not only does Teel expect that locking in these contests now will save Tech millions of dollars, but this point is really worth chewing on:
Tech's non-league dance card is booked through 2030, and in 10 of those seasons it plays at least two Power Five opponents — independents Notre Dame and Brigham Young are included in the calculation. The only ACC rivals that have comparable future schedules are Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech, and they have annual games against South Carolina, Florida and Georgia, respectively, built in.
In short, I think it is perfectly reasonable for season ticket holders to register their displeasure with Babcock's scheduling decisions — after all, if the games aren't fun to watch, what are we even doing here?
But Teel adds some necessary context to the debate, particularly when you consider just how much Babcock has worked to hew to Jim Weaver's standard of scheduling marquee nonconference opponents.
I invite you to start your weekend early by imagining just how awkward this scene was:
Happy Friday, Hokies.