Hokie fans don’t expect much from their quarterbacks in Spring Games as it’s pretty rare we see one quarterback or another look sharp enough to confirm that he’s the leader in the clubhouse as QB1.
Grant Wells did just that Saturday, cementing himself as the favorite to start for Virginia Tech Week 1 against Old Dominion.
Behind solid protection up front, Wells displayed knowledge of the offense and poise that his closest competitor, Kyron Drones, did not. The returning starter from last year finished the day 12-for-18 for 148 passing yards and two touchdowns, one of which came through the air.
Wells did a little bit of everything. He moved his feet when needed, got the ball out quickly and spread it to the perimeter. Wells completed passes to seven different players, many of which went to running backs Chance Black and Bryce Duke.
He was “sacked” twice, albeit thanks to the quick whistle of Brent Pry. But all things considered, Wells seemed in command of the offense.
The same cannot be said for Drones, who was tagged for two interceptions. Neither fell entirely on his shoulders — his first came on a dropped pass to Ali Jennings that was thrown too late, and his second on a contested pass by Jalen Stroman.
Drones had some positive plays, particularly using the run-pass-option (RPO). He nailed two slants to Norfolk State transfer Da’Quan Felton, both of which went for sizable gains. But those were really the only highlights.
While Drones may have had the more experienced group of wideouts, namely Jennings and Felton, he easily had the worse grouping of offensive linemen. Most of the projected starters on the offensive line wore maroon on Saturday, while Drones played behind second teamers.
Saturday was mostly a confirmation of what I’ve heard this spring, which is that Wells is a step ahead of Drones in the race to be QB1. Wells has the familiarity with second-year playcaller Tyler Bowen and most of the offensive players. Drones is still playing catch-up.
Various Other Observations From Saturday’s Spring Game
I’m currently talking myself into Chance Black as a contender for the top spot at running back. Black was far and away the most productive of the group, gaining 70 total yards on 17 touches and scoring two touchdowns. He’s a natural pass catcher out of the backfield, and shook Keonta Jenkins right out of his cleats on his touchdown run.
Bryce Duke deserves to be in the conversation as well. He led all backs with 90 yards on the ground. Between Black, Duke, Malachi Thomas and Bhayshul Tuten, Virginia Tech has some legitimate options at running back.
Ali Jennings, Da’Quan Felton and Jaylin Lane brought lots of hype this offseason. Each of them seem capable of being “the guy” on offense, but Stephen Gosnell might have something to say about that. Gosnell gelled with Wells on Saturday, hauling in three passes for 53 yards. Gosnell was sharp with his routes and looked like a real threat against the Hokies secondary.
Pop Watson might not be the guy this year, but he’s going to be QB1 for a team at some point in his career. The incoming freshman dazzled fans in the second half for the Maroon team, flashing serious speed and a beautiful touch on his passes. His fall-away 39-yard touchdown pass to Tucker Holloway was a sight for sore eyes.
Watson is admittedly small, but those types of quarterbacks are finding more success in this era of football than ever before. If he can stay healthy and take full advantage of what will likely be a redshirt year, Watson might take a serious leap forward in the quarterback room.