Two quarterbacks with similar dual-threat styles will take center stage on Saturday when Old Dominion visits No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Hokies redshirt freshman Josh Jackson will be making the fourth start of his college career and has been very effective. Monarchs freshman Steven Williams Jr. will be making the first start of his college career.
Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder, a former quarterback, made the switch to Williams a week ago late in the first half of his team's game against North Carolina. The Monarchs (2-1) were losing 39-7 and lacking energy, Wilder said. The left-handed Williams was able to inject some flair, leading three scoring drives in a 53-23 loss.
"All our kids Saturday, you could feel on our sideline when I sent him in to the game, all our sideline just kind of picked up," Wilder said, describing the 17 year old as a "Power Five talent" that was under-recruited.
Williams said he's never been to Lane Stadium or played in front of 66,000 fans, but he can't wait.
"I dream about it every night, the moment, how I'm going to react, everything," he said.
The Hokies (3-0) figure to be every bit the test that North Carolina offered, and Jackson's play has been a huge reason for their success. Last week he led an offense that scored 57 unanswered points in a 64-17 victory against East Carolina , and for the season he has thrown eight touchdown passes without being intercepted.
One challenge for the Hokies will be not looking ahead to next week's game against No. 2 Clemson.
"We could not play well and get beat because that could definitely happen," he said. "I think that's what kind of keeps you focused. This team is definitely good enough to come in and beat us and that's not something we want to let happen."
Coaches often try to rattle a young quarterback with pressure, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster said his goal will be to mix things up and not leave the Hokies vulnerable to quick-strike long plays.
"We have to pick our spots, but I'm hoping we can mix in some coverage and mix in some rush and mix in some pressures and do what we do and hopefully with a young quarterback maybe confuse him or paralyze him a little bit," Foster said.
Some other things to watch when Old Dominion visits Virginia Tech:
BIG STAGE: ODU quarterback Steven Williams Jr. played with poise at home against North Carolina and seems eager to play at sold-out Lane Stadium. The atmosphere will be loud and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will be ready.
STEADY JACKSON: Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson has played like a seasoned veteran for the Hokies, especially given coach Justin Fuente's attention to ball security. If that continues, it's hard to imagine this game being close.
WHERE'S CAM? Virginia Tech wide receiver Cam Phillips is the one who gets opponents' attention the most, but that hasn't slowed his production. Last weekend he caught a school-record 14 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Williams' high school teammate, Sean Savoy, has caught four passes in each game for the Hokies.
STEPPING UP: The Monarchs' best wide receiver, Jonathan Duhart, and top running back, Ray Lawry, both have been lost for the season to injuries. Wilder must accelerate the development of other players to fill those roles. He is hopeful that tight end Melvin Vaughn, who is recovering from an injury, will be ready.
LOOKING AHEAD: It will be hard for the Hokies not to have one eye on next Saturday night's game against defending national champion and second-ranked Clemson. The Hokies came up short against the Tigers last season in the ACC championship game, losing 42-35 in the ACC championship. But next Saturday night's game will be played at Virginia Tech.