Quarterback is the most important job in football. It might be the most important job in sports. Heck, it might be the most important job in the world. At least when it’s your team and your quarterback.
When the Virginia Cavaliers Football program has been successful, it has been behind strong quarterbacks. Bryce Perkins, Matt Schaub, Shawn Moore. Brennan Armstrong for one season. When Virginia Football has struggled, it has largely been due to poor quarterback play. Not going to name names, but if you’re a Virginia Football fan, you know the names.
Last year’s team had a record setting quarterback returning, and a talented group of wide receivers. And the offense couldn’t get out of its own way, going from the number-three offense in the nation to the number-102 offense in the nation.
As much as anything else, this was due to a change in offensive philosophy. Under Bronco Mendenhall and Robert Anae, the Wahoos were a run-n-gun offense, throwing 553 passes out of 892 offensive plays (62%). Under Tony Elliott and Des Kitchings, it was 342 passes out of 671 plays (51%).
Armstrong just never seemed comfortable in the new offense. His completion percentage dropped from 65% to 55%. His yards per attempt dropped from 9 to 6.5. His TDs dropped from 31 to 7 and his INTs rose from 10-12. It was not a good look.
With Armstrong moving to NC State to reunite with Anae, there will be a new signal-caller for the Hoos. And with Jay Woolfolk choosing to focus on baseball, there isn’t a single player on the roster who has taken a snap for the Wahoos. So who will be taking snaps, and how might they perform this season?
The presumed starter heading into camp is Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett. Let’s start with the obvious. That is an amazing name for a quarterback. But can he play?
In eight games a year ago, Muskett threw for 1997 yards, with 17 TDs and 8 INTs. He completed 64% of his passes at just under 9 yards per attempt. Those are solid numbers. He was better in 2021, throwing for 2651 yards in 11 games, with 25 TDs and 6 INTs. He also rushed for over 200 yards last year, averaging 3.1 yards per carry (includes sacks). He’s not a running quarterback, and he isn’t as dynamic as Armstrong was. But he can make some plays on the ground.
This is not a designed run. But Muskett sees the space open up and picks up seven yards and a first down.
Again, this isn’t a flashy play. But it’s a solid read and throw. Tony Elliott wants to run a pro-style offense. This is a pro-style throw. It’s 3rd and 5, the defense brings pressure. Muskett makes the read (as does the wide receiver) and Muskett puts the ball where it needs to be and when it needs to be there. First down. Big play. They ended up missing a FG on the drive. Oh well.
Here’s one from the spring game.
Again, it’s third and medium. Muskett rolls out on a designed bootleg. Might be an RPO, we don’t really know. But he’s got his head up all the way, he sees the coverage and hits the drag route for a first down. Again, it’s not flashy, but he’s getting the job done.
If you’ve been paying attention, this team is not expected to be successful. See the ACC Media Poll if you don’t know. If Bryce Perkins was around, this would not be the case. Muskett isn’t Perkins and he isn’t Armstrong. If you squint, there’s a little bit of Kurt Benkert maybe. Minus Benkert’s big arm.
If you recall, Benkert helped turn Bronco Mendenhall’s Wahoos into a respectable ACC team during his second season. Muskett has far more on-field experience than Benkert did, so the ACC learning curve may be smaller. Any success for the Wahoos this year is going to rely on Muskett playing well.
Well, there really isn’t any depth. The roster lists five other quarterbacks. One is Jared Rayman, a fifth year senior who is the team’s holder. He has not attempted a pass in his career. Another is Delaney Crawford, who reportedly has moved to wide receiver. Crawford is among the fastest players on the team, and could do well at wide receiver. He is not really what Tony and Des are looking for in a quarterback though.
Two others are Grady Brosterhous and Devin Sherwood, a pair of walk-ons from last season. Both have experience in the system and both played quarterback in high school. Neither had any reported offers, and both would seem to be a last resort.
That leaves Anthony Colandrea, a true freshman from St Petersburg, FL. Colandrea had many offers, but only one other than Virginia from a power-5 school (Kentucky). Still, 247sports ranks Colandrea as the 45th ranked quarterback in the nation and ESPN ranks him 34th. That maybe isn’t who you want as your backup quarterback as a true freshman, but at least Colandrea enrolled in the spring and has been through a full spring practice.
In fact, he may have been the biggest star of the spring game. He was decisive with throws, he used his legs well, and most importantly, he got his team into the end zone.
The biggest issue right now for Colandrea is his size. He’s listed on the UVA roster at 5’11” and 180 pounds. It is hard to play quarterback at this level at that size. Before Colandrea can really be counted on, he needs to bulk up some. It was one spring game, but he made plays. And that’s what you want from your quarterback.
If Muskett misses time and Colandrea is forced into the lineup, the Wahoos are in trouble. But with expectations so low, perhaps some playing time for the youngster will help in the future.