Tom Keegan: Ryan Willis makes big splash for Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis (5) looks to pass against Duke during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Ryan Willis left the Kansas football program taking far less confidence out of it than he brought into it. He was a beaten young man in need of a fresh start.

So he went to a winning ACC football program that already had four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster and didn’t have room for a fifth. He was welcome to join the Virginia Tech program as a preferred walk-on with a chance to earn a scholarship. He believed in himself and was rewarded for doing so.

Willis earned it.

He moved past three scholarship quarterbacks to assume the backup role and was pressed into duty midway through last week’s loss to Old Dominion after starter Josh Jackson broke his leg.

And on Saturday night in Durham, N.C., Willis looked like the most confident athlete on the field in leading the Hokies to a 31-14 blasting of No. 21 Duke, which had not lost a game until Willis made them lose.

A fourth-year junior, Willis was an easy choice for ACC quarterback of the week honors for his efforts in his first start at his second school. A 6-foot-4, 223-pound fourth-year junior, Willis completed 17 of 27 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns. He looked so decisive, so passionate, so on fire emotionally and with his passing touch.

He had the sort of performance one might expect from a quarterback who threw for 330 yards in his second start as a true freshman. That came in a 30-20 loss to Texas Tech, when Willis completed 35 of 50 passes and threw two touchdown passes with one interception.

It was quite the dual with Tech’s quarterback, who completed 29 of 50 passes for 354 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Some guy named Patrick Mahomes. Wonder whatever happened to him?

Asked how he thought Willis performed after that game, first-year head coach David Beaty said, “Well, you know, it’s going to be tough to say until I see the tape.”

Beaty doesn’t say that as often as some football coaches, but he did say a version of that again Saturday, after Carter Stanley completed 24 of 32 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

Willis and Stanley both were part of Beaty’s first recruiting class, which also included Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong, Texas A&M; superstar tight end Jace Armstrong and KU senior receiver Steven Sims.

Stanley redshirted his first season. Willis played right away and he and Montell Cozart, a fellow Bishop Miege graduate, bounced back-and-forth between starter and reserve. Beaty seemed to prefer Cozart, until Stanley won the job late in the 2016 season as a redshirt freshman.

After that year, Willis and Cozart both left KU, and Cozart was almost as much of a co-starter as a backup in his one season at Boise State, where he thrived.

Stanley has spent parts of his career at KU as a starter and has dipped as low as third string, which was where he stood for the first four weeks of this season.

At KU, Stanley has had four quarterback coaches in four seasons: Rob Likens, Beaty, Garrett Riley and Doug Meacham.

In two seasons at Virginia Tech, Willis has had one offensive coordinator, Brad Cornelsen, who doubles as quarterbacks coach.

A look at the statistics of Cozart and Willis demonstrates the value of strong offensive lines, sure-handed receivers and proven, stable coaching staffs.

At KU, the two Miege graduates combined to complete 54.5 percent of their passes, average 5.8 yards per attempt and throw 25 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions. Post-KU: A completion percentage of 61.1, 8.6 yards per attempt, 14 touchdowns and one interception.

Comments

Michael Maris

I love the Statement "He Earned It".

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Brian Wilson

More proof, Beaty, get you head out of you ***, read the comment section in the LJW sports sections, and give the comments some consideration. Be humble, look at your own faults, you have had your head in the sand for too long Oh and by the way....start Stanley.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Dane Pratt

Nice game by Ryan but if you could take his performance and transplant it against OSU we likely still come up on the losing end.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Kevin Robert Fest

Who cares what he does at VT. VT can recruit better players including ol, wr and rbs. The more talent you have around you the better you look. Funny how a good ol makes Willis look better not running for his life here at KU. Its apples and oranges. He wouldn't be better if he stayed. KU has less talent and doesn't get the type of recruits VT does. Plain and simple. Beaty ran him off, just waiting for AD to run him off.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Jeff Coffman

Some people believe once a Jayhawk always a Jayhawk, I like to hear what Willis does, I consider him a Jayhawk and appreciated what he did for KU.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Chris Condren

Not every QB is talented enough to play for Coach Beaty in his QB Carousel Offense.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

William Daniels

Speaking of Mahomes, Last night during the Chiefs - Broncos game they flash a stat on the screen showing incredible QB stats for Mahomes when throwing in under 2.5 seconds. I found the source of the stats here: https://twitter.com/BuckyBrooks/statu...
We could use a QB like Mahomes, maybe we could get away with a mediocre OL.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Jeff Coffman

Throughout history check the QBs that are most successful...Peyton Manning, Tom Brady were both known for getting the ball out within 2 seconds. Some argued that their lines made pro-bowls because of their quick release and not because they actually held the lines forever. I'd be interested the time it takes Bender and Stanley to release the ball, my guess is it is more than 3.5 seconds and generally that won't lead to success.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Micky Baker

It isn't just the QB who makes it possible to get the ball out in 2.5 seconds. It's a combination of things that require execution by other skill players on the team, particularly those that are charged with running routes. If there isn't anyone open or the QB makes his mind up who he's going to throw it to regardless of what the defense shows or actually does. It would be possible for any of QB's to get the ball out in 2.5 seconds on average if they simply threw it to the hot route, the one that's wide open right away. That would slow down the opponents' pass rush, along with the threat of Pooka on play action plays. It seems so simple on paper. You look at a stat, and all you see is 2.5 seconds. But why does he get the ball out in 2.5 seconds? Because he sees the guy who is wide open and throws the damn ball to the wide open guy. Our QBs don't do that and should.

1 week, 3 days ago

Report

Jeff Coffman

This article is great. It is riddled with facts and shows the battle that went on with the QBs. I really like some of the quotes, like after probably two of the best performances under Beaty the, "I got to check the tape" to see if the QB played well was used.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Lance Hobson

Great to see there is life after the KU debacle for some of these guys. Last year I made Cozart laugh after saying “Rock Chalk” to him after one of his great BSU performances. Just wish they could have thrived with KU.

1 week, 6 days ago

Report

Jerry Ryan

I suspect QB is only part of the equation to team success. Tom, since you mention Patrick Mahomes, can you tell us how many games TTU won with him as QB on average ?

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Bryson Stricker

Missed a key part of why Ryan Willis isn't here Mr Keegan. Himself.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Steven Haag

Amazing what a good offensive line and receivers can do for a quarterback

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Brad Sherp

Beaty is not only the worst HC of all time. He is also the worst QB coach. Every QB regresses under Beaty.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Randy Bombardier

Come on guys. If it's a matter of the talent around you then maybe you should let one guy get to understand what he has on hand. The fact is these two former Jayhawks have the ability to get it done something our current staff has a problem determining. The QB carousel does nothing good. Imagine Mangino taking Reesing out after his debut in Colorado. Kids too short. He kinda got lucky. No, he made the change then stuck with it. I would like Reesing to do our QB recruiting and evaluating.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Micky Baker

You made the opposite argument regarding Joe Dineen saying that because Weis redshirted him, he's now the best LB in the nation. Joe Dineen, by the way, led the nation last year in solo tackles. It's likely Weis didn't recognize his talent. Get on one side of the fence and stay on it.

1 week, 3 days ago

Report

Randy Bombardier

Willis certainly looked poised.

https://youtu.be/ACaWuVadBHo

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Andy Godwin

Not surprising that Willis had a good game and hopefully more to come. Looks like he has grown up a bit since leaving KU. He always had the talent, but the story failed to indicate that he was not viewed as "a team player" by many. I remember running into the previous AD at the KC airport and talking about Willis, and stating that it looks like KU finally had a Big 12 caliber QB. Unfortunately he need time to mature, and his path to the ACC as a walk-on, appears to have provided a new outlook. Hope Willis continues to succeed.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Edward Daub

Agreed Andy! The Notre Dame Game on SAT Prime Time will be a True Litmus Test in Blacksburg, VA!

1 week, 4 days ago

Report