Justin Fuente overcame major hurdles for a successful first season in Virginia Tech, and duplicating now seems that much more daunting.
Quarterback Jerod Evans announced Monday that he’s forgoing his senior season and entering the NFL draft, joining wide receiver Isaiah Ford. Tight end Hodges announced his decision Saturday.
There were distinct possibilities that Hodges and Ford could both leave early, but Evans is a stunner. He played just one season for the Hokies after transferring from Trinity Valley Community College and set school records with 4,392 total yard and 41 touchdowns.
“After much consideration, thought and prayer with my family, I have decided to forego my final year of eligibility and pursue my dreams of playing in the NFL,” Evans posted to Twitter.
He beat out Brenden Motley for the job, making this an even bigger blow for Virginia Tech with Motley having exhausted his eligibility.
Mitchell Ludwig is the only returning player on the roster who attempted a pass in 2016, but he’s a punter. Freshman Josh Jackson, who redshirted this season is the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and Fuente has a verbal commitment from Hendon Hooker, a three-star dual-threat passer from Greensboro, N.C.
Evans helped lead Virginia Tech to a spot in the ACC Championship Game and 10 wins, the first time both of those happened since 2011. He also helped lead a 35-24 come-from-behind win over Arkansas in last Thursday’s Belk Bowl.
“My time at Virginia Tech was extremely rewarding both on and off the field,” Evans wrote. “I could not have asked for a better college experience. I am and always will be a Hokie.”
The 6-foot-2, 238-pounder joins Ford, who set Hokies marks in receptions (210), yards (2,967) and TDs (24) and ended the year with 79 catches for 1,094 yards.
“Since I was a kid I have dreamed of suiting up in the NFL and I have decided to begin that journey now,” Ford posted to Twitter. “Virginia Tech could have not prepare me better and I will be back to earn my degree from the best school in the nation!”
Hodges, at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, was listed as a tight end but often lined up as a wide receiver, creating matchup nightmares in hauling in 48 balls for 691 yards — both career highs — and seven scores. He posted the following on Instagram on Saturday.
“After a lot of prayers and time with my family I have decided to forgo [sic] my senior year to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. Thank you to all the people that helped get me to this point. I want to thank Coach [Frank] Beamer for giving me a shot out of high school and Coach Fu [Justin Fuente] for coming in and build on that legacy. I will miss all of my teammates and I loved going to war with y’all! Thank you to my mother for pushing me always and pushing me to graduate. Most importantly thank you Hokie Nation for your support and love you have always shown! I will forever bleed orange and maroon.”
Had the trio stayed, Virginia Tech would have been the clear favorites to repeat as ACC Coastal Division champions, and given all that Clemson is losing, would have likely been one of the favorites to win the conference.
Instead, Fuente is left with a rebuild that was unexpected on the heels of that record comeback vs. the Razorbacks.