Fall camp got started Thursday and less than 24 hours later, the Hokies had their first prominent departure. Former four-star recruit Dwayne Lawson, a true sophomore, will transfer immediately. The news comes just over 18 months after Lawson committed to the Hokies to play for former offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Lawson’s six foot six-inch frame drew comparisons to just about every successful quarterback with a similar build in recent memory, and it wasn’t hard to imagine his potential. How did we get to this point? What does it mean for the Hokies in the grand scheme of things?
How We Got Here
Lawson arrived with a ton of hype, and for good reason. His high school film is pretty darn good and it’s easy to be excited about a six foot six-inch long strider gliding past defenders on his way to the endzone. He oozed big-time potential, the kind of quarterback that, if developed correctly, would be a surefire first round pick.
However, Virginia Tech pretty much botched his development process from the beginning. Lawson struggled to pick up the playbook, but Frank Beamer and Loeffler decided to not redshirt him despite that. The result was a wasted season in which he went 3-for-9 with 51 yards. Seven of those passes came in a blowout win against Furman. He went virtually unused for much of the season. If Tech had been patient with him last year and committed to a full year of development as a redshirt, it would have been much more beneficial for him.
Instead, he rode the pine and entered his first spring under Justin Fuente with still a lot of developing to do. Fuente liked what he saw out of Josh Jackson, who was already committed, and brought in his own guy in JUCO transfer Jerod Evans. Lawson was originally one of the three guys really considered a contender in spring practice, but that notion quickly evaporated as the new staff zeroed in on Evans and Motley.
Simply put, Lawson was looking at another season as the third-stringer. Perhaps he would have redshirted this year, but Evans will be a senior next year and Jackson a redshirt freshman. There was no clear path for Lawson to be the starter in Blacksburg.
And to make matters worse…
After news broke of his impending transfer, Norm Wood and Andy Bitter reported that Lawson had failed a drug test and was facing some sort of suspension.
With no clear path to playing time this season or next season, plus a suspension that would firmly put Lawson in the doghouse, the writing was on the wall here.
What does it mean?
In the grand scheme of things, not much at this point. As I mentioned above, Lawson had no clear path to playing time this season or in the immediate future. Josh Jackson had already passed him for playing time this season, meaning after Evans graduates after the 2017 season, Lawson would compete with him for the 2018 season as a redshirt junior. Throw in the commitments of Hendon Hooker and DeJuan Ellis and the quarterback depth chart is not getting any clearer.
I wrote an article upon Fuente’s hiring about the chance he had to unlock Lawson’s potential. I still think it’s a fair take, because, at the surface, Lawson was a high-ceiling prospect who could be a dynamite athlete at quarterback.
But Fuente’s decision to bring in Evans, retain Jackson and gain commitments from Hooker and Ellis really negated the importance of Lawson.
He went from being THE future to maybe a part of the future if he develops right. Perhaps if he has success at the JUCO level, transfers to another school and sees big-time success as well, the Hokies might look at what happened with regret. But that would also mean Evans, Jackson, Hooker and Ellis all flamed out as well and the Hokies went through an era with subpar quarterback play. That isn’t likely to happen.
At the end of the day, Lawson was one of those guys you have to take because of what he could be. Fortunately, the Hokies are positioned well enough that his departure won’t make much of a difference, both in 2016 and beyond.