Hokies fans and pundits alike have been pontificating on who will start under center for the first game of the Justin Fuente era for months now, but on the cusp of the kickoff of fall camp, the new head Hokie has a simple message: don't hold your breath.
Fuente has acknowledged that he sees the quarterback battle as a two-man race between Brenden Motley and Jerod Evans, but even with fall practice set to start Thursday, he has no timeline just yet for naming a starter for the team's opener against Liberty.
"I don't have a date in mind, we're just going to see how it goes", Fuente told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. "I'm really not trying to hide anything for the first game or anything like that. I believe that we are going to go out there and execute what we are trying to do offensively with both of those guys. Sure, there are small differences in them, but whenever that comes about, we will act on it and move forward. But, I haven't looked at the calendar and said 'We have to have something by this date or else'."
New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brad Cornelsen was similarly coy on the subject, but he was at least willing to detail what he'll be looking for from Motley and Evans in camp. He noted that the pair will split reps, at least in the early going, and he's hoping to study up on more than just their stats.
"You have to take into account what else is going on out there," Cornelsen said. "It's not just a statistical battle of completions or interceptions, it's what else is going on and what situations those guys are in."
The coaches had a bit more to say about the receivers those quarterbacks will be throwing to, especially when it comes depth at that position.
Most notably, Fuente revealed that Henri Murphy, a junior college athlete the team signed in June, would be eligible to play this fall and will get the bulk of his work on the offensive side of the ball as a wideout. The team initially announced that Murphy would be taking a mandatory redshirt year in 2016, and he played mainly corner in high school, making both pieces of news a bit surprising.
Indeed, they even had a domino effect throughout the team's depth chart. According to Fuente, word from the NCAA that Murphy would be eligible helped shape the way the coaches thought about moving former receiver Deon Newsome to safety as well.
"Henri Murphy will be eligible this year, so while that played into the decision it was not the sole decider," Fuente said. "We have some depth issues in the defensive backfield and the wide receiver spot. We felt like we have helped those two problems with the switching around."
Cornelsen is certainly glad to have some wiggle room in the receiving corps. After all, he's still searching for consistent options behind Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips as he looks to build a full complement of able receivers.
"If you could go into the season with six or eight, that would be ideal," Cornelsen said. "We've certainly made it with less, played games with less. You take as many as you can get, but certainly six would be a fantastic number to get to."
But as the team works to identify those players, Cornelsen thinks versatile players like TE Bucky Hodges and FB Sam Rogers might be just what the team needs to bridge the gap.
"Those are two guys, I'm not sure that we've had guys exactly like (them)", Cornelsen said. "It's going to be fun moving those guys around and finding ways to use them to take advantage of some looks."
Phillips would be certainly glad to have the extra help.
"I think it definitely keeps us fresh," Phillips said. "We don't have to take plays off, if you will, because we know we have to play the whole game. We'll be able to go out and give everything we have with every opportunity we get."
A return to Tech's roots in the running game might help take some of the burden off Phillips and company as well, and on that front, Fuente is similarly uncertain. He noted that he hasn't yet been able to fully evaluate Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams as they've recuperated from injuries, something he's looking forward to changing this fall.
Similarly, he's hoping to get a fresh look at last year's breakout player at the position: Travon McMillian. After several hot and cold interviews when asked about how McMillian will featured in this offense, Fuente is anxious to see McMillian at full speed this fall.
"He looks like he is moving with more confidence," Fuente said. "The times I've seen him moving around, his body looks better, part of that may be that he is more healthy. He just seems to be more confident in what he's doing."
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster isn't without some uncertainties of his own, particularly when it comes to the mike linebacker spot. Following Carson Lydon's departure from the program in the offseason, the team is painfully thin behind starter Andrew Motuapuaka, and Foster is well aware of that fact.
"That is a concern spot at linebacker, to be honest with you," Foster said. "Obviously at mike, I have high expectations for Andrew Motuapuaka after getting a first full year of starting under his belt. Experience is the best teacher, and I am expecting him to take big strides."
However, Foster is more enthused about Tremaine Edmunds' potential at the backer spot.
"He reminds me of a bigger version of Xavier Adibi we had a couple years ago," Foster said. "That's a credit to the kid because he is long and athletic. He is very versatile. He can be good as a blitzer, he can be good in the run game, he can be good in the pass game having long arms in the throwing lane."
He's equally excited about Tim Settle, now down to a svelte 326 pounds, to pair with fellow DTs Woody Baron and Nigel Williams.
"I am hoping that will make an impact on our ability to stop the run up front.," Foster said.
When it comes to the secondary, Foster said he's hoping that Newsome's move to safety marks the end of any positional shuffling, but that doesn't mean the secondary won't look a bit different this fall.
"We want to have a little bit more high safety and have more eyes on the football so to speak," Foster said.
But all of this is just hypothetical until Thursday, when the Hokies strap the pads on to open up fall camp in earnest.
"I think our kids are anxious to get out there and practice football and not just run back and forth across a field or just bench press," Fuente said. "That's kind of the neat part about football; when you get tired of doing one thing, you get to go do something else."