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Maybe There's A Reason 2 Experienced QBs Left Last Year

While many are beating a dead horse about offensive play calls after Virginia Tech’s semi-disappointing 21-10 win over Richmond Saturday, I find myself focusing on two plays that occurred in the second quarter.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

They involved Knox Kadum, a backup quarterback who had enjoyed a good week of practice, was firmly holding on to No. 2 on the depth chart at QB, and was told he’d see some action against the FCS Spiders. Midway through the second quarter with the Hokies up 7-0, he got the call to go in.

But that call was like your boss telling you go make a presentation to the board on 5 minutes notice.

You were doomed to fail.

Having not played any significant minutes when the game was on the line, Kadum was asked to go in when the ball was on the Hokies’ 6-yard line. While he probably ran sections of the playbook in practice all week, he now was thrown into a situation where half the playbook went out the window. Pinned that deep, everyone knew the first play would be a run, and sure enough Raheem Blackshear was stuffed at the line.

Now it’s 2nd and 10. Everyone also knows that the most effective defense against an inexperienced QB is pressure, and Richmond's defense came running - as Lawrence Taylor once said - like a bunch of crazed dogs. Kadum scrambled around his end zone looking for somebody open, then hoped for the best as he launched a pass downfield.

The pass was intercepted and returned to the 16. One play later Richmond scored to tie the score at 7-7. Kadum was taken from the game, never to play another down.

Two plays with little chance to succeed, starting from horrible field position were Kadum’s reward for having a good week in practice.

This enraged me. If you manage people, whether it’s in business or sports, you’ve got an obligation to everyone you supervise to do at least two things: One is to never embarrass them in front of others, meaning if you’ve got something hot to say, do it behind closed doors; the other is to never put anyone in a position where they are most likely to NOT succeed. Doing so crushes the person’s confidence, destroys any possible trust, and makes most people for a long period of time remember the mistake of a person, not the potential of a person.

It also rekindled anger I had for the coaching staff last December. The Hokies were playing Clemson where Hendon Hooker had an issue and was pulled from the game. Cameras showed Hooker sitting on the bench alone, his arms pulled tight, shivering and slightly rocking back and forth like he was freezing. Later Coach Justin Fuente would say “The trainer came to me and told me that he was cold. I don’t know if there’s something more significant or serious or what with that. I’ve never seen that before or heard of that before.”

I saw something different. Spend time around young people (which Fuente does for a living) and you will at least once see a young person struggling with the pressures of the world and have an anxiety attack. The one I saw involved a person looking just like that. And if I wasn’t sure, a few minutes later I got a call from a huge Hokie friend, who starts the conversation with “Are you watching this? That’s what my daughter looks like when she’s having a panic attack. And there’s nobody around him trying to help him. They’re just acting like he’s cold.”

Although a dignified Southern Lady, she then showed me the expansive repository of curse words she had acquired in life – exceeding even those of my late Dad, who spent 20 years in the Navy – with all directed at what she perceived to be either an unfeeling or clueless coaching staff.

“I don’t know if it is or if it isn’t,” I replied. “But if it is, I believe I’d have him in the transfer portal about 5 minutes after the season ended.”

For the record, the Hokies played their last game of the 2020 season on Saturday, December 12 against Virginia. On Wednesday, December 16, the Hokies announced in a press conference they would not be accepting a bowl bid. On Thursday, December 17, Hooker entered the transfer portal. Seventeen days earlier, Hooker’s close friend and the other backup QB – Quincy Patterson – had also entered the portal leaving Virginia Tech’s QB pantry pretty empty in terms of experience.

Maybe what happened last year was all coincidence. But you can tell me until you’re blue in the face that “we planned all along to get Kadum in the game then” and I’ll still say you put him in a position to fail. Wait until the field position is out at the 30 or 40 and then give him a chance. Don’t sacrifice him to the barbarians at the gate in the shadow of his own goal posts.

By contrast, I can live with endless jet sweeps that go nowhere, lackluster games where the team wins by 11 when they should have won by 30, even a loss here and there to the likes of Old Dominion.

But the program lost two really good quarterbacks to the transfer portal in 17 days late last year. And they just crushed the confidence of another QB by putting him in for two plays in a no-win situation when they really didn’t have to.

That…I can’t live with.

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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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