Monday Mail: Nester Flirts With The Hokies, Justin Robinson’s Absence and More

Hello Hokies. It’s the beginning of the week, so it’s time to answer your questions.

Forgive me for the delay, as I’ve been dealing with a nasty cold over the weekend. With that and work, it was nearly impossible to get any of this written prior to Sunday night.

Without further ado, let’s get down to business.

Virginia Tech has been recruiting 2019 offensive lineman Doug Nester for a few years now. The four-star offensive lineman from Huntington, W.V. chose Ohio State way back in August 2017 and it seemed like this recruitment was wrapped up with a bow on it.

However, Urban Meyer’s retirement at Ohio State has changed the math. Nester started to look outside Columbus once Meyer announced his retirement, and Virginia Tech has been his flirtatious partner.

247Sports’ Crystal Balls are usually a waste of time, but when you see several of them in one direction, it can be an indicator of what is it come. The last several Crystal Ball picks have all swung in Virginia Tech’s direction, leading Hokies’ fans to get excited.

All of those Crystal Balls should be taken somewhat lightly, but there’s an awful lot of smoke there. I think it’s likely that Nester is going to flip to the Hokies, but I wouldn’t put it in the bag just yet. We’ve got a couple days before National Signing Day on February 6.

If Nester does sign with Virginia Tech, it would give Tech maybe their highest-rated group of offensive line prospects in school history. The four-star Nester would join fellow four-stars Jesse Hanson and Bryan Hudson, as well as William Pritchard. There’s no guarantee that the group will pan out entirely, but that is an impressive gathering of talent for Vance Vice to work with.

This wasn’t technically a question for Monday Mail, but it’s a good question I received this week that is worth some discussion.

Justin Fuente’s ability to develop and coach quarterbacks has been well-documented. Whether it was Andy Dalton at TCU or Paxton Lynch at Memphis. Fuente’s quarterbacks have never had poor seasons, even when he’s been working with young and unproven players.

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At Virginia Tech, Fuente turned Jerod Evans into a highly successful college player just once season removed from junior college. He coached up Josh Jackson to lead the Hokies to a nine-win season in 2017, and helped acclimate Ryan Willis to the starting role in 2018. Seriously — go look at the numbers and show me a season Fuente’s quarterback struggled relative to the rest of the country.

But there have been demerits on Fuente’s track record with quarterbacks — namely Jackson’s inability to continue growing and Hendon Hooker’s transfer. Hooker’s transfer is the one that requires some fleshing out.

Hooker enrolled at Virginia Tech as a raw and talented freshman with interest from all sorts of elite Power 5 programs. If Clemson hadn’t signed five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson, they would have gone after Hooker more than they did.

Despite a redshirt season, Hooker seems very similar to the guy he was in 2017. He simply couldn’t process the defense fast enough and his accuracy was spotty as well. When Willis would come out of the game due to minor injuries later in the season, Quincy Patterson was getting the call, not Hooker.

Hooker’s failure to launch in Blacksburg falls partly on Fuente. If Patterson struggles with some of the same issues and fails to win the starting job in the next two years, then the “QB whisperer” narrative will fall under serious attack by the Hokie faithful.

In Tech’s first game without Justin Robinson, the Hokies shot 35.6 percent from the field and committed 12 turnovers. Tech scored a season-low 47 points but thanks to a historically bad shooting night from NC State, Virginia Tech walked away with the win.

The Hokies can’t expect their future opponents to score 24 points, so the offense needs to find its way and it needs to do so quickly. Making Nickeil Alexander-Walker the primary ball-handler might not be the right way to go, given his five turnovers vs. NC State. Wabissa Bede should be the heir apparent to that role, but Bede is more of a lockdown defender than he is an initiator on offense.

If Robinson is out for an extended period of time, Tech does not have the depth to fill his void. This team is already dangerously thin as it is, and losing the team’s best passer and initiator on offense is too big a hole to patch for any length of time.

Tech sits at 7-2 in the conference, and even if Robinson was healthy, winning 12 games would be tough to accomplish anyway. Tonight’s home game vs. Louisville will be a tough test, but it might be one that Tech can overcome in Cassell Coliseum. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh are all winnable games, but there’s no way Tech can knock off Virginia without Robinson on the floor.

Tech finishes the season with road games at Notre Dame and Florida State, and home contests against Duke and Miami. With Robinson out, it’s fair to say Tech is barely a .500 team, so 4-5 would put the Hokies at 11-7 in the ACC.

If Robinson can come back in a week or two, then the Hokies should have no problem getting to the 12-win mark in the ACC. But with him on the bench, the rest of the season will be astronomically difficult.

5 thoughts on “Monday Mail: Nester Flirts With The Hokies, Justin Robinson’s Absence and More”

  1. Truly not analytically fair and actually disappoints me that you went with the “Fuente gets demerits for Herndon’s lack of development and transfer. Tell me a coach in which every single QB on the depth chart develops into a starting caliber QB. And if that QB isn’t playing, you might think it is because there are better QBs in front of him. Perhaps if we didn’t have Jackson or Willis, Hooker might be starting and doing ok. Perhaps if he does well at another school, it does not mean he was under-used here. It means he was behind better people. When we think of a QB not being ready to be a passing QB, perhaps we have expectations. But I am sure for every Dalton or whomever that Fuente coached, there was also a backup or 3rd or 4th string on the roster that the QB whisperer didn’t have “ready to play.” Every single QB whisperer, including Cutcliffe has backups that that QB whisperer would not want in a game. That was a bit lazy to hit Fuente with that.

    1. I don’t think Hooker’s inability to develop in Blacksburg means that Fuente doesn’t know what he’s doing. However, when your first hand-picked quarterback prospect flames out after two seasons, I think it’s fair to add that to the overall record.

  2. Based on this comment, “But there have been demerits on Fuente’s track record with quarterbacks — namely Jackson’s inability to continue growing and Hendon Hooker’s transfer. Hooker’s transfer is the one that requires some fleshing out.” How can we say for certain that Jackson showed an inability to grow when he got injured in the the third game of the season? He was effective in the games he played this past season and his numbers supported his effectiveness, so to say that he displayed the inability to grow is not an accurate statement and need more evidence to come to such a conclusion.

    1. Jackson’s injuries undoubtedly affected his play, but even when he returned healthy in 2018, Jackson’s limitations were still obvious before his broke his leg. Fuente had two seasons with Jackson, and I don’t think there was any growth over those two seasons.

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