Tyrod Taylor will at last open Tech's season with the weight and expectations of a college starting quarterback on his shoulders, but Hokie fortunes could very well rest beneath his knees.
With true freshman Logan Thomas and recent practice-squad graduate Ju-Ju Clayton engaged in a summer battle for No. 2, they left plenty of wonder as to what will unfold if Taylor misses time due to his injury-prone ankles.
Despite Taylor never having topped the depth chart for a full season, this has been the case each of the past two seasons.
“He did extra work during the winter and the spring to help work on those ankles,” head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said. “Obviously, he’s still getting taped, and we’re doing some special things with his tape job.
“More importantly, he took it upon himself during the offseason to put on about 20 good pounds of muscle and get stronger, so I think that’ll go a long way to keeping injury free.”
The reserve crisis looms if health fails, as the Hokies would look to very green replacements.
That’s not to say it’s a poor talent pool.
At 6-6 with a laser rocket arm, Thomas manifests some of the traits of a prototypical NFL quarterback while discussion of playing him at tight end draws comparisons to Tech’s own Greg Boone.
Though head coach Frank Beamer hopes to redshirt the Lynchburg-native, Thomas has been receiving repetitions for a contingency strategy in case Taylor sits out for any length of time.
“Right now we have no plans to play Logan this year,” quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain said. “Unless something happens.”
After impressing in spring practice, Clayton emerged as a likely fill-in at back up. O’Cain has expressed confidence in Clayton, but the void of game experience proves a source of uncertainty heading into the season.
“As I told (Clayton), ‘I think I know how you’re going to play in a game, but I don’t know’ … You just don’t know how he’s going to go out there in a crowd of people with it on the line, and step up.”
Clayton struggled mightily in the Maroon-White spring game, however, completing only four of 15 passes.
Over the past two years, Tech’s held the luxury of calling on a well-experienced sub in Sean Glennon.
When Taylor was forced into cast after an injury against Duke in 2007, Glennon played decently in a crushing loss against Boston College, followed by a resilient 27-3 thumping of Georgia Tech.
Taylor then earned Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Week after his triumphant return against Florida State the next time out.
In 2008, Taylor again suffered an ankle injury, leaving the turf after his first snap against Florida State. The contest also featured
Glennon falling to injury and a surprise quarterback cameo from receiver Cory Holt. Taylor missed the following game against Maryland as well.
While Glennon’s graduation left question marks for 2009, Taylor’s performance as the starter down the stretch in 2008 — not to mention Tech’s Orange Bowl victory — left plenty of answers for what he can do while on the field.
Taylor’s passing statistics certainly aren’t pretty — throwing for just two touchdowns and seven interceptions in 173 attempts last season. However, his 738 yards rushing,
and Tech’s four-game, season-capping winning streak spoke in larger volumes.
“Toward the end of the season last year he began to really start being a quarterback,” O’Cain
said, “Just understanding how the game is being played and what is happening on the other side of the ball.”
The junior from Hampton, Va., flashed more signs of rounding the learning curve in a 15-for-24, 218-yard performance in
Tech’s final preseason scrimmage on Aug. 26.
Quarterback tested, Beamer-approved.