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QB Josh Jackson focused on being more of a leader for Virginia Tech

March 24, 2018 GMT

BLACKSBURG – With a year of starting experience behind him now, Virginia Tech sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson has a much-improved handle on the team’s offensive scheme.

But what really makes Jackson feel a bit more comfortable here in his third year of spring ball with the Hokies is his grasp of Bud Foster’s vaunted and venerable defense.

“Understanding of Bud’s defense, this is now my third year seeing it, so that’s getting a little easier for me,” Jackson said. “He still gets me every now and then, but I’ve gotten definitely a lot more comfortable.”

Jackson looked plenty comfortable last season behind center, throwing for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing 59.6 percent of his passes. He led the Hokies to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Where coach Justin Fuente and Cornelsen are hoping to see Jackson get more comfortable is in his role as a team leader.

“I definitely want to be more vocal and try to be a better leader. That was definitely like a focus for me this offseason, especially in the workouts and everything like that. Trying to do that and try to help my fellow teammates along was big for me.”

Jackson was adequate in that department a season ago, but was understandably focused on his responsibility as a first-time starter.

“This spring, I think he’s emerged more as a leader,” senior center Kyle Chung said. “He makes his presence felt more this year, where last year was more competing for a spot and nobody really knew what was going on with the quarterbacks last year.”

Through the first three workouts of spring, Fuente said he’s liked what he’s seen from Jackson.

“He’s been good so far,” Fuente said. “I think he’s more comfortable with what’s going on. I mean, there’s certainly another level of understanding of comfort, of operation out there when he’s there.”

This is the first time in his three seasons at Tech that Fuente will have a returning starter at quarterback. In 2016, his first season, he picked Jerod Evans – a junior college transfer – for the job. Evans led the team to a 10-4 mark, an ACC Coastal Division title and a win in the Belk Bowl.

But Evans surprisingly declared for the NFL draft, leaving the Hokies with a hole at quarterback again. Jackson won the job and hopes to hold on to it going forward.

Of course, this spring, Tech’s coaches are focused on giving Jackson’s competitors for the starting job – yes, it’s still a competition – a long, hard look over the team’s 15 practices.

Redshirt freshman Hendon Hooker and transfer Ryan Willis, who sat out last season, will get a larger share of the practice repetitions this spring, the coaches said, because they already know Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses.

The staff wants to see Hooker and Willis run the team’s 2-minute drill, its goal-line offense, and play under fire with some live rush.

That’s fine with Jackson.

“I don’t think they need to see me do it, because they saw a whole season of it, which made sense to me,” Jackson said. “Those other guys will get in, get those reps. I’ll just be trying to help them out as much as I can.”

After all, that’s what a leader does.