There’s no better time for hyperbole in sports than early-season declarative statements. And on that note, Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson is the best freshman in the ACC.
Jerod Evans was a revelation for the Hokies last season; the JUCO transfer seemed to come from nowhere, but he turned into one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, and led Tech to a Coastal Division championship.
Evans decided to turn pro after the season, like two other star Hokies: Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges. For the third time in as many seasons, Virginia Tech would start a new player at quarterback in 2017.
Virginia Tech still returned a lot of talent; Bud Foster was still the defensive coordinator. Thus, the conversation all offseason was: “Well, if Evans had stayed for one more year, this team could’ve been really special.”
Enter the league’s newest disruptive technology: Josh Jackson, a redshirt freshman quarterback.
To say Josh Jackson has gotten off to a hot start at Virginia Tech would be a vast understatement. Three weeks after being named the starter by Justin Fuente, Jackson looked good in the dramatic season-opening win over rival West Virginia: 15 completions, 235 pass yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 111 yards and a score, too.
Through the first three games of his career, the redshirt freshman has completed 55-of-86 passes (64 percent) for 829 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. Those 829 yards are the most for any Virginia Tech quarterback in the first three games of a season since 2000.
That’s right — more than Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, Bryan Randall, Tyrod Taylor and Jerod Evans.
It’s not just the yardage, though. Jackson’s eight touchdown passes, including five against East Carolina, are the second most for a Hokie quarterback in the first three games of a season since 2000. Only Jerod Evans, who had 10 in the first three games last season, accumulated more.
The Blacksburg release party was a success
Everyone in the world knew that Virginia Tech would roll last Saturday against ECU; however, it doesn’t matter who you are playing — hanging 64 points on any team is impressive, especially when 57 of them come unanswered.
Well, that’s exactly what Josh Jackson and Tech’s offense did.
After falling down 17-7, Jackson hit his new favorite target, Cam Phillips, for a 10-yard touchdown. From then, the rout was on.
Virginia Tech reeled off 57 straight points as its offense hummed. In one stretch of the third quarter, Jackson threw four touchdown passes — including two more to Phillips — in a span of seven minutes of gameplay.
In total, Jackson completed 24-of-31 passes (a sizzling 77.4 percent) for 372 yards and five touchdowns. According to Sports Reference, that’s just the fourth time this season that a player has thrown for more than 350 yards and five touchdowns on at least 30 attempts, and no interceptions.
Phillips caught 14 passes against the Pirates (on a rather efficient 16 targets), which broke a 27-year-old school record for receptions in a game.
All the bells and whistles
For high-profile quarterbacks, it’s all about blending high-volume efficiency with explosiveness. So far, Josh Jackson, who ranks 24th nationally in ESPN’s Total QBR metric, has been able to do just that.
According to Football Study Hall, Virginia Tech ranks No. 19 nationally in Isolated Points Per Pass: 1.82.
Five ACC quarterbacks currently average better than eight yards per attempt, but Jackson tops the list: 9.8 yards per attempt — a top-15 number in the FBS, too.
Jackson is also one of six FBS quarterbacks this season to have attempted at least 80 passes in 2017 without throwing an interception. Joining him on that list are Ryan Finley of NC State and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield — the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Avoid being a luddite
Don’t be a laggard; if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start paying attention to Virginia Tech and Josh Jackson.
Two Saturdays from now, the Hokies will host the No. 2 Clemson Tigers at Lane Stadium. Jackson will have an opportunity to compete with the industry leaders. Pay attention because there could easily be a rematch of these two teams a few months from now in Charlotte.
Fashion-forward: VT’s Cam Phillips channels his inner Russell Westbrook