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Taylor Adds New Dimension With Legs

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor earned the nickname "T-Mobile" for his highlight-reel moments running the football. But at times this season, he has seemed hesitant to break the pocket and make plays with his legs.

In Saturday’s 31-7 win over Miami, Taylor added a dimension to Virginia Tech’s offense by rushing for 75 yards on 10 carries. He kept the Hurricanes defense on its heels and was never sacked.

“I feel like he’s getting more comfortable back there,” running back Ryan Williams said, “and he’s becoming the Tyrod that a lot of people have been saying that wasn’t there the first couple of games.”

In the preseason, Taylor talked about developing a pocket presence and becoming a better passer. In fact, he said he planned to scale back his running.

“My plan is not to take off unless I have to,” Taylor said at the Hokies’ preseason media day. “I have a lot of guys out there at receiver that can make plays. My job is just to get the ball to them.”

He said it had nothing to do with trying to protect himself from injuries; he has missed time in each of his first two seasons with ankle issues. Taylor’s hesitancy to run showed in the first three games.

Against Alabama on Sept. 5, the Hokies ran a handful of options or quarterback-decide plays, but Taylor did not run often and netted negative-26 rushing yards thanks largely to the Crimson Tide's five sacks. He broke a 46-yard run against Marshall on Sept. 12 but was not a consistent running threat. And against Nebraska on Sept. 19, Taylor threw a season-high 27 times and was cordoned off by a Cornhuskers defense that tried to contain him with athletic defensive linemen who stayed at the line of scrimmage.

The Miami game was different. Taylor ran a few quarterback draws and improvised with his legs when needed. He took advantage of the Hurricanes' speedy, over-pursuing pass rushers by breaking loose. After the game, Bryan Stinespring, the Hokies’ offensive coordinator, said Taylor’s mobility made the Hurricanes play the Hokies “11 on 11.”

“I think it opens up things because people in pass defense, they’re looking in the backfield instead of where our receivers are,” Stinespring said.

In slippery conditions against the Hurricanes, Taylor completed 4 of 9 passes for 98 yards. Although the passing numbers were paltry, there were signs that Taylor’s mobility opened up the passing game. He connected with wide receiver Jarrett Boykin on a 48-yard touchdown that opened up after the Hurricanes’ defensive backs came up when they saw Taylor do a half rollout (and it was especially open when cornerback Chavez Grant slipped and fell).

Although Stinespring said this week that he was comfortable with the Hokies’ passing game and added that he “believes it can win some games for us,” Virginia Tech has not been much of an aerial threat. The Hokies rank 115th nationally in passing offense, averaging 135.5 yards per game.

But with Taylor using his running ability, Virginia Tech’s offense opened up last Saturday and turned out its best performance of the season against a ranked opponent.

No. 6 Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays at Duke (2-2) on Saturday.

By Mark Viera  |  September 30, 2009; 1:04 PM ET
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