First, some housekeeping.  It has been quite a last-few-days for Pitt sports.

  • Pitt’s women’s volleyball team locked up their their third ACC championship.  They play Florida State this weekend at the Pete.

  • Even though the wrestling team lost to Ohio State, they’ve moved up to #12 nationally.

  • Pitt Men’s soccer made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years.  They’ll meet Lehigh in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

  • Jaylen Twyman was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week

  • Shocky Jaques Louis made the Pro Football Focus ACC team of the week (offense)

  • Deslin Alexandre and Damarri Mathis made the PFF ACC team of the week (defense)

…and to close it out, Kenny Pickett was named ACC Quarterback of the week

in part by making great throws like this one on third and 14:

I also want to take a second to congratulate Kenny.  He’s taken a fair amount of heat this season, both from me and from the Pitt fan base, and he’s fought through it.  He’s clearly shown the ability to take coaching and grow, and that is a credit to how he approaches the game.  As fans, we are depending on him to continue to grow, and we wish him nothing but continued success.  After all, we have a vested interest in how well he plays.

Repeating his performance won’t be easy.  Virginia Tech is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 125.5 passer rating, and have held the last three quarterbacks they’ve played to an average of 98.8.  If bad Kenny shows up, it’s going to be a long afternoon.

But hey at this point we all know about Kenny Pickett.  The quarterback we don’t know is Virginia Tech’s sophomore signal caller, Hendon Hooker.

Hooker was a 5.7 three-star in 2017, and hails from Greensboro, North Carolina.  He collected 17 offers, the most notable offers outside of Virginia Tech (and Pitt) were Notre Dame, West Virginia, and a few second-tier SEC schools (Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina.)  In the ACC, UVA also offered, as did Wake.    Of course he chose the Hokies.

Hooker started the 2019 season on the bench, but replaced Ryan Willis after the Hokies were embarrassed by Duke 45-10 in week four.  Since then, he has done nothing short of win every game he’s started, and guide the offense to at least 34 four points each time.  He’s done it by extending plays with his legs, and by being extremely efficient with his arm.

Hendon Hooker
Stats Credit:  Richard Hefner

As you can see by the table above, Hooker has played in five games.  He doesn’t have ton of attempts, but when he does throw, he makes it count.  His YPA and YPC numbers are very good and he QB rating numbers are outstanding.

He also hasn’t thrown any interceptions.

Here is how Hooker stacks up to the rest of the ACC.  Yes that’s right, he’s #2.

ACC QB's Week 12
Stats Credit:  Richard Hefner

Okay okay, so Hooker has only thrown the ball 95 times, and yes, he’s faced a clutch of mediocre defenses (Miami counts…they were in dumpster fire mode prior to playing Pitt), but you have to give the man credit.  He came out and took care of business when business was there to be taken care of.  You can guarantee he’ll be dangerous against Pitt.

Here are his highlights vs Georgia Tech:

Pitt will be Hooker’s sternest test though; lets be clear about that.  No quarterback has exceeded their season QB Rating against the Panthers.  The only real question is how much of a variance will we see?  Sam Howell played nearly to his season average against Pitt (he was off by just 8 points), and if the Tarheels defense had been just a tad bit better, Howell’s performance probably would have been good enough to win.  Virginia Tech’s defense is more than a tad bit better (more on that tomorrow…) and if Hooker throws for a 167 passer rating (8 points less than his season average), Pitt is probably going to lose.  I think Pitt probably needs to hold Hooker to something less than 140 to have a shot at beating Virginia Tech, and that’s if the Pitt offense delivers.   If Pitt’s offense sputters in Blacksburg, the defense is going to have to get downright nasty.

Here are the numbers on how opposing quarterbacks have fared against Pitt:

QB's against Pitt - wk 12
Stats:  R. Hefner

Of course a couple of sacks, a fumble or two and a couple of interceptions would also help Pitt’s cause.  Hooker has gone five games without an INT, so you’d have to think he’s due.  Damar Hamlin’s due too and he’s got fresh legs from only playing less than one half of football last week.  I’m sure he’s also got an axe to grind, and Lane Stadium seems like the perfect place to grind it.

The x-factor is the Hokie’s offensive line.  Hooker hasn’t been sacked more than three times in a game, and that’s happened only once.  Still, the VT line is ranked 87th in sack rate, so if Hooker is forced to drop back a lot more, he’s probably going to take some punishment.  Someone pointed out today that the VT line is comprised completely of freshman and sophomores.  I’m going to point out that Pitt’s defensive line has moved back to #1 in the country in sacks, and it’s imperative that they make their presence felt on Saturday (hot take, I know).  They also need to keep the fleet-footed Hooker contained.  He’s run for an average of 57 yards in four of his five starts, and likely has extended a lot of plays with his feet.  Pitt has done a nice job against running quarterbacks so far this season (Perkins, Rourke and Graham to be specific) and this has to continue.

The bottom line is, (just like every other game), Pitt’s defense needs to show up and play well in order for Pitt to have a chance to win.  That starts with Randy Bates needs calling another great game.  It continues with Pitt stopping the run and forcing some turnovers.  It ends it Pitt hitting the quarterback repeatedly.  Hooker is still young.  If Pitt gets him out of his comfort zone, he could crumble.  Of course he could also rise above the pressure, pick apart Pitt’s top-ten defense and show the world that he is truly top three in the ACC.  In Lane Stadium in November, in a game with Division Championship implications, against Pitt, who has earned “begrudging respect” in rural Virginia (and is on the cusp of becoming a rival), such would be the stuff of which legends are made.  Of course legends in Hokie country don’t amount to much in Pittsburgh.  Lets hope we are up to the task.

 

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

 

77 thoughts on “QB Corner – Profiling Hendon Hooker

  1. I was hoping that Willis would be VT’s QB for like 10 years…

    If ND offered Hooker, he must have a strong arm. Anyone who plays QB for the Irish these days has a cannon…

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  2. danh72, to back up your astute VB observation skills – https://pittjohnstownathletics.com/images/2018/9/4/2018_Volleyball_Team2_Web.jpg?width=1600

    actually that is UPJ team which as I understand it is slightly less good looking and slightly less talented than the main campus team of course 😉

    the best I could do for the Pitt main ladies – https://pittsburghpanthers.com/images/2019/8/30/VB_Cleveland_St_083019_MSH_9667.jpg

    C’mon Heather, let’s get some marketing photos out there of the main campus ladies

    I will add that when I was there, I went to a few games for that exact reason. Tall, athletic, blonde(and other options) and well, who wouldn’t want to support the Pitt athletic teams. Worth the walk up the hill. Can’t recall if they won more than they lost. 🙂

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  3. Sorry Annie …. we are who we are

    But seriously, the only reason the discussion here is about VB is because the women’s team is possibly the most skilled team in the country

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Back to FB …. if you look at the chart above, you will note that despite the opposing QB rating to be held much lower than normal, you will note that all of the games still weren’t decided until late in the game. I attribute this to …

    1) turnovers
    2) drops / penalties
    3) offensive conservatism in the 2nd half

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    1. Aaand, lack of adjustment, too many adjustments, partying locker room at half, too tense locker room at half, turtling, napping, opponents wake up, earl

      Maybe they just want to entertain and undecided games until late is how they get it done 🤬😅🙃

      Like

  5. well, it’s a little bit of national respect …

    @ChrisDokish
    13h
    Rob Mullens, the chair of the selection committee, just said one of the reasons Penn State is above Minnesota is because Penn State had “the best non-conference win against a 7-3 Pittsburgh team”.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Poor Shawn Clifford at PSU getting death threats after one loss. We lived through four years of Tino Sunseri which was way, way, way, way worse and us Panther fans just drank more.

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    1. actually, in his first year, Pitt fans were clamoring for him to play ….. so maybe we Pitt fans are not the bright bulbs we think we are

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        1. Yes. Still won 19 games in 2 years but had the best supporting cast of anyone since the gottfried era

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    2. Tino would have been remembered much better had there been no coaching change. The Graham offense was terrible for him, so a wasted junior season, and he did throw for over 3,000 yards, 21 TDs and just three picks in his senior year.

      That 2011 year though was such a waste and killed the program for most of the decade. What great visionaries were Smiley and Nordy. Imagine those two clowns still in charge?

      Not only that, we had to see Gallagher destroy the hoops program this decade.

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    3. One of my favorite things to do in life is to watch psu lose football games so I always tune into their games. Watching Clifford last week against Indiana he seemed to be an ass on the sideline after a few plays. Trace McPrick the second.

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  7. Great job Mike and Richard, much appreciated.

    I was wondering if this Hendon Hooker kid is a true sophomore of a RS sophomore? Never the less he’s still young and inexperienced imo and will feel more pressure than he has 5 games that he’s played in. Which by the way, was also wondering why he didn’t play in the Notre Dame game which was right smack in the middle of his 5 starts? To be honest here, I’m much more worried about VT’s defense. ike

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  8. Love the article MM. Thanks.

    So I predicted 8 wins for this Panther team. Win this game and they are probably Top 25.

    Time for a Narduzzi team to put on their big boy pants and show the nation they are for real.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. By the way, how about the younger guys on D showing up last week.
    Baldonado, Bright (all over the field), Alexandre (huge plays), Twyman (8.5 sacks at DT, are you kidding me)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. VT has rushed for over 200 yards in 4 of their last 5 games. Pitt is going to have to keep up the excellent rush defense. I watched much of their last couple games – the offense relies on the RBs and lots of screen passes

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hang in there gc, had my left knee replaced almost 20 years ago, it gets better and fairly fast as well. I got up from my couch and walked into our kitchen only one week later. I do have a small compact house but never the less, you’ll be up and moving in no time.

      Like

  11. One thing the Panthers are doing extremely well this year is tackling. They make hard, sure tackles and greatly limit the YAC. Of course, this will have to continue on Saturday for PITT to win. I expect it will.

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    1. Hopefully, Mr. Parrish is a critical thinker and sees the opportunity at PITT….history of a power running game with a huge drop-off this year, history of great college runners, freshmen earning playing time and Duzz’s desire to have a solid ball control running game…seems like a perfect match….fingers are crossed….

      Liked by 1 person

    2. If everyone votes for him maybe we will.

      Actually from what I read it all comes down to whether Miami has a committable offer for him, so in a way we are rooting for Miami’s recruiting efforts for a bit

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Doesn’t Miami have a former 4 or 5 star transfer running back already sitting out this year and ready to go next year and another big star high school stud committed for next year? Bernie is right, time for critical thinking on OH Henry’s decision!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you open the link wwb provided, there are 4 players up for this award. 2 running backs, one OL & one LB.

        The other RB up for the award is already a Miami commit. Does it matter to Parrish? Maybe the other RB is getting ants in his pants.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Outstanding write-up Maestro! Unlike many of the games this year, where I felt they were either a must-win for us, or we were underdogs and winning seemed like a long shot, this one against the Hokies feels different to me: just a good Saturday college football game between two good, evenly matched teams, both with something at stake late in the year. As a result, despite the fact that the Hokies are not a rival to us, or us to them, this one should be pretty intense, fun to watch. Based on the stats laid out above, as Ike noted, I think the key for us will be stopping the run, and getting some pressure on the qb as well. My concern with this game is that VT is hot as of late, and is at home, so we’re going to need to show some life in our offense again to pull off the upset.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree, but I think we will need to score in the high 20’s to stay in the game. Whether or not it’s the O or the D that gets us those points I really don’t care.

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  14. Old Dominion, Furman and Rhode Island out of conference slate for Virginny Tech. Point is, noone ever talks about the out of conference schedule. It’s cream puff city. All anyone wants to talk about is their record of 7-3. They beat who they were supposed to beat.

    When you have a proper creampuff schedule, you really only need to be focused for 3-4 big games a year. It’s a numbers game. Look at OSU, they only need to play above average ball in 2-3 games per year to end up in the CFP. All other games an average to slightly below average outing wins you the game. That’s not asking too much of the players.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. And psu. Their schedule is ‘favorable’ in that it ramps up allowing then to break in players. Focus for Pitt, OSU and Michigan and they win 9 or 10 games.

      Like

  15. Heard some of the Coach Duzz radio show.

    He had praise for KP, Twyman, Mathis and Alexandre, of course, but also mentioned freshman Brandon George and transfer Petrishen on special teams – both had 2 tackles. Petrishen is listed as a R-Sr, but Coach said they hope he gets another year. Said he’s a hard worker.

    On the scout team, Coach singled out good work by OLman Blake Zubovic, LB Jackson Henry (who I’m clueless about), and freshman DB Brandon Hill. Coach said Hill has played different positions and he’s looking forward to seeing him play next season…

    On punting, Coach said he wasn’t happy with our punting, so he asked Kessman to punt in practice last week. Kessman hadn’t been working on punting this season, but Coach liked what he saw.

    Wouldn’t you know that the first time he send Kessman out to punt, we take back-to-back penalties and get him backed up toward the goal line…

    Coach said he was pleased with Kessman’s one punt – 42 yards and a fair catch.

    Go Pitt.

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  16. Article on PSN about a TE from NY to be joining Pitt next season as a preferred walk-on. Thomas Nealis is listed as 6-5 and 225.

    Here’s the good news from the article:

    “Nealis describes the strength of his game as his ability to catch the ball and while he isn’t “bad at it”, he needs to work on his blocking and believes that by gaining some weight and with work in the weight room, he’ll be able to accomplish that.”

    He did make some real nice catches in his highlight video..(and I didn’t see even one drop! 😊).

    Go Pitt.

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    1. Love the optimism John but go ahead and take a look at this guy’s film. He’s going to have to work very hard to see the field.

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      1. MM — Given who we have on our roster at the TE position — I welcome to our roster any TE who has decent hands whether that TE be a 4-star down to a walk-on.

        I’m tired of us recruiting TEs who might become offensive tackles. (There aren’t that many O’Neills out there. )

        Very disappointed that Coach Salem, who seems to recruit his butt off, has not been able to find a decent TE.

        Go Pitt.

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        1. It’s sad state of a affairs when a PWO who has Div II talent at best gets fans excited. Not to be too Reed-Esque but that’s the truths. And I agree. Salem should have been able to reel some better recruits in. Watson’s system did him no favors but Whipple is clearly utilizing them in the passing game. Pitt needs to get a lot better here, and fast.

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          1. MM — I think you mis-construe. I don’t see anyone jumping up and down over Thomas Nealis – my purpose was merely to bring this guy to the attention of the POVers.

            I did post that the kid made some nice catches, which is a fact.

            Go Pitt.

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            1. I agree he has solid hands. I was more referring to the Twitter which did have some people that seemed a bit more optimistic.

              Just don’t want irrational exuberance to to take hold. That’s all. Appreciate the post as always. I’d be perfectly happy with a three star right end in the 2020 class (and 2021) and another solid grad transfer to tide us over.

              On a separate but related note, I wonder how that juco they missed in last year is working out at his team of choice?

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  17. Next possible transfer target: Chris Bleich, 305lb OL currently at U of Florida. Was a 5.7 Three Star on Rivals. Originally committed to UCLA. Started at Florida this year as a RS Freshman. Just entered the transfer portal, apparently due to a family issue. He’s from up my way, so Pitt would be close enough. Duzz did recruit him in high school, and paid him a personal visit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would have mixed feelings about this guy.

      He must have some big-time ability, but these guys who struggle to settle on a school seem to have problems getting things to work out…

      Go Pitt.

      Like

  18. I remember him Eric and thanks for the info. Most thought he may have been a PITT lean at one time? I like the last 4 letters of his last name. 🙂

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  19. This is an interesting take on the portal concept. Let’s just imagine that some players are given that extra incentive to attend a certain college. What’s to hold them back after receiving that “little” extra incentive and moving on the next year or two? The answer is NOTHING!

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      1. Kylan is not an example I’m talking about Mike but yes Kylan Johnson has worked out to put it mildly. I’m referring to a player more like like Bleich, an undergraduate, who may have been initially “persuaded” to attend a college far away from his home only to walk his way back towards his home after the “persuasion” had worn off? Only an example. The question is? What’s to keep a player to honor his commitment < (a term I use lightly) after he has been “persuaded” to attend a said school?

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        1. Oh I get it. And the thinly veiled subtext. Yes let ‘em pay. And when the kid wants to come home and get into a real situation so much better for all involved

          Liked by 1 person

  20. I think Bleich originally committed to Dairy High School, then decommitted and was leaning towards Pitt and then the west coast cash came in and he committed to UCLA and then he committed to Flurrrrrida!

    I also think he was a 4 star when he committed to Farmer University of Pennsylvania State and when he got downgraded to a 3 star, he was downsized. I will wear my pitt gear on the sidelines for franklinstein this weekend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This guy sounds like Chris Clark. But it’s low risk. If he washes out then just recycle his ‘ship next year. We have enough OL depth right now to take a chance

      Like

  21. MM and Rich, thanks for an outstanding blog entry, you have met or exceeded the founder’s high standards regularly and we appreciate your effort.

    Nothing new but TOs will be the difference. No fumbles or Int last game was a big part of the win.

    Is it me or does Shocky remind you of Jester Weah with his size and speed. Also, Jared Wayne seems like he could be a big contributor the rest of this year and next. Nice size and very mature young man who has patiently waited his turn and then stepped up when the opportunity presented itself.

    On one hand a beating VT and then VT beating the Hoos would be back-to-back division titles, but does getting crushed by Clemson really help or hurt reputation, recruiting, team morale, etc? For me, you can’t be the best until you beat the best so hoping we get another chance at the Scum.

    Liked by 1 person

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