Throughout my four years at Virginia Tech, the quarterback room may be best summed up by the words “unfulfilled potential.” For Josh Jackson and Hendon Hooker, injuries slowed down promising starts to their Hokie careers. For Ryan Willis and Quincy Patterson, it was a lack of development over the course of multiple seasons that caused them not to be able to hold onto the starting job. That does not mean that the situation is hopeless, however. Unless something completely unexpected happens, Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback will be Braxton Burmeister. Burmeister started his college career at Oregon backing up Justin Herbert. After transferring to Virginia Tech in 2019, Burmeister started four games and won three of them, including the rivalry game against Virginia. He did only have 4 total touchdowns and 880 all purpose yards, but the film shows a player who could be much more than that this season.
It starts with Burmeister’s legs. If you want to player quarterback at Virginia Tech, you absolutely have to be a dual threat. The running game is heavily predicated on zone reads and quarterback draw is one of the most popular calls in the Tech playbooks. Burmeister is not like a Ryan Willis “I just think I’m fast” type of runner either, he is legitimately quick, as seen in the clips below.
Willis is at his best as a zone read runner because he is fast enough to take advantage of the space zone read creates. Once he is in the open field, he is shifty enough to to make a defender or two miss. Where Burmeister will struggle is between the tackles running, which normally wouldn’t be much of an issue but Tech loves to run QB draw for whatever reason. At 6’1″ and only 205 pounds, Burmeister just isn’t going to power through tackles consistently enough for that to be a viable option. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean Tech will take that out of the playbook, because they ran it multiple times per game with Ryan Willis, who was even less equipped to handle that running style. Never the less, Burmeister should still be a productive runner. The best running season a quarterback has had in the Fuente era is Jerod Evans, who rushed the ball 204 times for 846 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the four seasons since then, Fuente’s leading rusher from the QB position averages 120 carries, 413.5 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Since Burmeister shouldn’t be splitting carries with any other quarterback and because he is so gifted as a runner in space, I would guess that he is above average in each category.
2021 Prediction: 135 carries, 575 yards, 7 TDs
As a thrower, Burmeister doesn’t quite have the physical tools that a player like Quincy Patterson does, but he is more than capable for a college quarterback. His accuracy in the short to intermediate range is much better than his 56.5% completion percentage would suggest. That stems from his mechanics, which are quite sound for a quarterback with little starting experience. The clip below is a great example of that: he catches the snap, shifts his weight from his back foot to his front foot and then quickly release the ball in a perfect spiral.
That accuracy within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage gives Burmeister is a good start for a college quarterback, but it is even more valuable when you factor in his athleticism. Burmeister is seems comfortable throwing on the move both on designed rollouts and scramble drills, which adds a dynamic aspect to his game that quarterbacks like Ryan Willis never had. It is a huge advantage to be able to make a defender guess whether or not the quarterback is going to run or throw on any given plan, and Burmeister brings that.
That being said, there is room for improvement. Burmeister doesn’t throw with much anticipation, but since he started sparingly through four games, I do think that is something he can improve upon. The one area he likely won’t be able to improve is his arm strength. Burmeister can throw 50-55 yards downfield, but he cannot do it with much velocity. Just look how long it takes the ball to hit the ground in the clip below:
While Burmeister’s arm will hurt his NFL draft stock and limits the offense, it is by no means a death sentence. Virginia Tech’s offense doesn’t rely much on deep passing as it is, and Burmeister has two very good YAC receivers in Tayvion Robinson and Tre Turner. Add in a great intermediate threat in James Mitchell and you have a receiving core tailor made for Burmeister. With an entire offseason to learn the offense and gain rapport with his receivers, I’d expect a big jump in passing from Burmeister.
2021 Prediction: 400+ attempts, 62% completion, 2950 yards, 26 TDs, 7 INTs
In the ACC, the clear best two QBs are Sam Howell and D.J. Uiagalelei, with D’Eriq King and Phil Jurkovec competing for that number three spot. That number five spot, however, is up for grabs, and Burmeister is in the running to claim that spot. The ceiling isn’t sky high, but if Burmeister can be better than half of the quarterbacks in the ACC, he should be good enough to lead VT to a quality bowl game.