The Next QB? Door is wide open for Vick's replacement
The Roth Report
January 15, 2001
By Bill Roth

And starting at quarterback for the Virginia Tech Hokies is · ah · well· Anyone have any suggestions?

When Frank Beamer's boys open up their football season this fall - sans Michael Vick - there will be a new man taking snaps. Who that man will be remains a mystery. In fact, the Hokies may not know who their 2001 starting quarterback will be until the weeks preceding their opener against Connecticut, especially if Beamer elects to break with tradition and play a true freshman at the position.

There are currently two quarterbacks in Tech's program - rising redshirt junior Grant Noel and redshirt freshman Jason Davis. According to Tech's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rickey Bustle, when spring practice starts, those two will be the only players wearing yellow jerseys - Tech's quarterbacks wear yellow in practice sessions. At least that's the plan as of now.

"We're going to give both of them a good look and see what they can do," Bustle said.

Noel, a 6-foot-1, 222-pound, rising junior from Ridgeley, W.Va., appeared in six games for the Hokies during the past two seasons. He's completed 5 of 12 passes for a total of just 59 yards serving as the Hokies' third-string quarterback for the past two years.

Davis (6-2, 185) redshirted this past season at Tech after enrolling in school last January. Rated the No. 1 quarterback and No. 7 overall prospect in Tennessee by the Knoxville News Sentinel following his senior season at Seymour High in 1999, Davis graduated from high school early and enrolled at Tech just two months after playing his final high school game. He went through Tech's winter strength and conditioning program and spring practice last year. Davis, who turns 19 in three weeks, has a strong arm but has much to learn about the Tech system. Like Noel, he'll get his chance in spring ball.

While neither Noel or Davis has been labeled the Înext Michael Vick,' the Hokies will give both young men a fair shot to win the quarterback job this spring. And while Bustle said the staff has not discussed moving a player from another position to quarterback, the Hokies have two players in their program who were exceptional high school quarterbacks - cornerback Eric Green and wide receiver Richard Johnson.

Green, who played corner for the Hokies during his true freshman season this past fall, became the first player in Clewiston [Fla.] High School history to pass for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. During his senior season, he posted outstanding numbers with his arm (1,100 yards passing, 12 TD's) and his legs (400 yards rushing, 6 TD's) in earning team MVP honors.

Green is intriguing because of his great speed and his maturity. The kid, however, has a bright future as a defensive back and could be an All-BIG EAST candidate corner this season. There's no question Green has the mental makeup to make a quick-switch position change (like Nick Sorensen did several times at Tech). But would Tech's coaches want to risk his development as a defensive back by making a switch to offense?

"To be honest, we really haven't sat down and talked about it (Green) yet," Bustle said.

But they will.

Johnson (6-0, 170), redshirted this past season. Although the Hokies plan to use him as a receiver, they also recognize that he threw for 1,109 yards and 18 touchdowns as a quarterback his senior year at Baltimore's Milford Mill Academy. During his high school career, he passed for 3,343 yards and 48 touchdowns. The athletic Johnson also rushed for 28 touchdowns during his prep career. By some accounts, Johnson was Tech's highest-rated recruit in last year's class.

Clearly, Johnson and Green are more athletic than either Noel or Davis. But neither has spent any time in quarterback meeting rooms studying film and learning Tech's system since coming to Blacksburg. Would Beamer consider delaying the development of a star cornerback or receiver by a year to move him to the quarterback position? Those are the tough decisions Tech's coaches - and the players themselves - will be considering in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the Hokies already have commitments from quarterback prospects from both Arkansas and Virginia and continue to recruit another top-notch quarterback from the Richmond area. Beamer has been reluctant to play true freshmen quarterbacks, and during the recruiting process, the Hokies have assured their 2001 quarterback recruits that they would redshirt this fall.

"Regardless of who we have back there, it's not Mike [Vick], so we know we're going to have to simplify our offense and change some things," Bustle said.

Another option for the Hokies would be to sign a junior-college quarterback. Bustle said he received two tapes from junior-college quarterbacks the day Vick announced he was leaving Tech.

"Junior-college quarterbacks are kinda hit-and-miss," Bustle said. "You look at the tape and talk with the coaches, but still aren't really sure what you're getting."

Pittsburgh found a winner in Los Medanos [Calif.] Junior College product John Turman, who stepped in and played well for coach Walt Harris during the 1999 season. But Turman is the exception.

When Syracuse signed highly-touted JC quarterback Chad Elliott last season from American River [Calif.] Junior College, SU fans had hoped they had found the answer to their quarterback dilemma. But the Sacramento native couldn't beat out Troy Nunes, Madei Williams or R.J. Anderson for the starting or even backup jobs.

The Hokies have not signed a junior college quarterback in the Beamer era and Bustle admitted the Hokies have not been actively recruiting one this season. It would take a very unusual set of circumstances for the Hokies to sign one now (although having a quarterback bolt to the NFL after his sophomore year does bring about some unusual circumstances for any team).

The Hokies likely won't need to look to the Kansas or California junior colleges to find their next quarterback. He's likely already in the program.

This situation looks similar to what happened in Blacksburg following the 1994 season. The Hokies had lost senior quarterback Maurice DeShazo and Tech coaches were unsure of a lanky sophomore named Jim Druckenmiller. In practice - and in games - Druck had been anything but impressive and there was grave concern about who would quarterback the Hokies during the 1995 season.

That concern changed to optimism during Tech's 1995 spring practice. Once he had the opportunity to excel as the No. 1 guy, Druckenmiller blossomed into an all-conference quarterback.

Now, six years later, the door is open for someone else to step up and claim the Hokies' quarterback position.

Rise and Fight debut is next Monday
The worldwide debut of the 2000 Virginia Tech Football video - Rise and Fight will be next Monday night, January 22nd, on the big screens at the Gobblertown Tavern in Christiansburg. The video, which chronicles the Hokies 2000 season, will be shown following the Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline radio show, which airs from Gobblertown from 7-8:30 p.m.

Narrated by NFL Film's voice Harry Kalas, the videotape is the latest in a series which has chronicled the growth of Tech football over the years. This year's tape includes never- before -seen video of the Hokies postgame senior speeches in the locker room following the game with Clemson. Each year, Beamer allows his seniors to address the team with an always-emotional, tear-jerking series of good-byes from the departing seniors. That in itself is reason to buy the tape - if seeing Michael Vick run around during his final season isn't reason enough!

You can purchase the tape at the Tech Bookstore on Main Street in Blacksburg, or by visiting www.techbookstore.com.

Hope to see you at the debut of Rise of Fight next Monday night at Gobblertown.

Villanova joins ISP family
Add another school to the growing family of ISP Sports. Villanova signed a seven-year agreement with ISP Sports - the holder for Virginia Tech's multi-media rights - bringing the number of BIG EAST schools now in the family to three (Syracuse is the other).

By creating a stronger East Coast network of schools, ISP can generate increased revenue through national sales, and thus, generate additional revenue for its schools. This year, for example, ISP Sports will pay Tech $1 million for the Hokies' multi-media rights.

As of today, there are 12 NCAA Division-I schools represented by ISP: Tech, Villanova, Syracuse, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Marshall, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Southern Mississippi, Cincinnati and Ohio University.


The Roth report appears weekly in hokiesports.com-the newspaper and is posted for the general public on hokiesports.com.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Virginia Tech Athletics Department, hokiesports.com, or it's advertisers.