Arm sets pace for Va. Tech QB

Two years ago, it was all about the legs for Tyrod Taylor.

The Virginia Tech quarterback spent his sophomore year earning the "running quarterback" label, never tossing for more than 171 yards in a game. He rushed the ball 147 times while completing just 99 passes.

But in 2009, Taylor evolved as a quarterback and those stats changed right along with him.

He more than doubled his passing yards from the previous year (1,036 yards up to 2,311) while cutting his rushing yards roughly in half (738 yards down to 370). He topped 185 passing yards six times, including each of the team's last four games that ended with a 37-14 win over Tennessee in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

The Hokies won and scored more than 35 points in all four of those games, raising expectations for a 2010 season. And Taylor is expected by some to lead the run at the school's first national title. Virginia Tech debuted at No. 10 in the AP's preseason poll.

"We just want to pick up where we left off last year, don't want to miss a beat," Taylor said. "At the end of last year, we were playing our best ball of the year. For us to carry over from last year, not just play at the same level but at a higher level, is the goal."

To do that, Taylor's continued progression is critical, becoming a quarterback who can consistently produce with his arm. The end of last season was promising for the senior, but it won't be known just how far he's come until the team takes the field for the first time Sept. 6 in an intriguing opener against Boise State.

Taylor said last year's passing success had much to do with him and his receivers becoming more comfortable with each other on the field.

"I've always been a good passer, but certain situations I've been in, I've had to run," Taylor said. "Passing is nothing new. The first two years here, I just kind of ran more. The year after that, the receivers and I got on the same page. We just had to have time to jell with each other."

All four leading receivers return this year, including split end Jarrett Boykin, the team's top pass-catcher who averaged 20.9 yards per reception last season.

The Hokies open the season in Washington, D.C., against No. 3 Boise State in a Monday night game. The Broncos, coming off a 14-0 season, are seeking to become the first non-BCS conference school to play for a national championship. In order to do that, they first have to knock off Virginia Tech.

Taylor has heard the talk but said the team feels it's being overlooked a bit already.

"That's what you work all summer for. That's added motivation," Taylor said. "I think we're the underdogs when this game starts. That's just motivation all summer."

If they can pull it off, the Hokies must overcome some serious history. Virginia Tech is 1-25 all-time against Top 5 teams, that lone victory coming against then-No. 2 Miami in 2003.

But if Taylor is looking for a springboard toward the championship, it is just nine days away.