The transfer portal giveth, and the transfer portal taketh away.
On the same day that it became public that running back Deshawn McClease had withdrawn his name from the transfer portal and will return to Virginia Tech for 2019, it also became public that rising redshirt sophomore Hendon Hooker had entered the portal and plans to transfer from Virginia Tech.
Hooker’s decision to leave Blacksburg is in no way surprising, but definitely disappointing. Hooker, who played in six games off the bench in 2019, never climbed the depth chart as Tech fans had hoped. Justin Fuente’s first handpicked quarterback signing out of high school came with plenty of credibility. 247Sports’ composite rating slated Hooker as a four-star prospect and Hooker held offers from Oregon, Clemson, Tennessee and Notre Dame, among others.
Hooker found himself in the starting quarterback race in 2016, but ultimately redshirted. In 2017, Hooker failed to turn his year on the bench into a starting role, as Hooker fell noticeably behind Josh Jackson and Ryan Willis. After Jackson had broken his leg and when Willis would come out for a few plays, Quincy Patterson often relieved him instead of Hooker. By that point, it was clear Hooker would never make an impact in Blacksburg.
Since the media first met Hooker in the late summer of 2016, he’s always come off as an upstanding young man with a good head on his shoulders. Even though Hooker hasn’t seen the field much, he’s never trashed the team or the coaching staff, and he’s never had a single off-the-field issue that we’re aware of. By all accounts, Hooker is a great kid and hopefully he’ll get an opportunity elsewhere.
But for Virginia Tech, this offseason has decimated their quarterback depth. It’s gone from the deepest position on the team to one that now faces some serious questions.
The Hokies now have just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster — Willis and Patterson. Virginia Tech has no committed quarterbacks in the Class of 2019 and with an experienced starter and prodigal young gun in the room, it’s hard to imagine a transfer deciding that Virginia Tech is the place to be.
Virginia Tech now has a dire need at quarterback, but not in the traditional sense. The Hokies don’t need a starting-caliber player, they just need someone who can play the position and maybe grow for a few seasons.
The Hokies are making a play for Georgia prospect Knox Kadum. The James Madison commit holds no Power 5 offers other than Tech, so it’s clear the Hokies are lowering their standards here. Kadum could turn out to be quite the player but recruiting services and Power 5 programs don’t see it. Virginia Tech has recruited Rome High School a lot in recent years, and the pull of a Power 5 program should overwhelm Kadum’s commitment to FCS James Madison.
Help is on the way in 2020, as long as quarterback Tyler Warren stays in the fold. But Tech needs answers right now, and Kadum is their only realistic hope. If Kadum spurns Virginia Tech, we may never notice a difference on the field. But all it will take is one disaster to reveal the void left by Hooker and Jackson’s transfers.
(UPDATE: Class of 2019 quarterback Knox Kadum announced his commitment to Virginia Tech on Feb. 2, giving the Hokies three scholarship quarterbacks for 2019.)