Virginia Tech Is Eager to Improve Its Passing Game

"I think Tyrod's a very accurate thrower," Hokies Coach Frank Beamer says of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, above. (By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)
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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 23 -- In last weekend's loss to Boston College, each of Virginia Tech's top three wide receivers dropped passes in critical situations. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor failed to surpass 100 passing yards. And for the fifth time this season, the Hokies did not record a passing touchdown.

The immediate result was Virginia Tech's first loss since the season opener, a result that sent a team that had been steadily ascending through the top 25 completely out of the rankings. The residual effect has been a week of scrutiny for an offense that lacks anything resembling a passing attack. The Hokies are quickly learning that winning despite an ineffective offense is categorized as resourceful, but losing because of an ineffective offense is categorized as troubling.

Compounding the problem is Saturday's opponent, No. 24 Florida State, which leads the ACC in total defense and ranks third in pass defense.

"I don't think there's any question we need to execute, by everyone, better offensively," Coach Frank Beamer said. "We need to catch the ball better; we need to throw at times a little more consistent -- although I think Tyrod's a very accurate thrower. That's not the key issue."

The Hokies' passing game faces two primary issues: inexperienced wide receivers struggling to replace a heralded group of four seniors from last season and a sophomore quarterback whose running ability has far exceeded his throwing ability.

Freshmen wide receivers Danny Coale, Dyrell Roberts and Jarrett Boykin all dropped catchable passes -- from a would-be touchdown to a downfield pass moments before halftime to a much-needed third-down conversion attempt.

"I don't think it's a tendency for these guys," Beamer said. "They had a couple that got dropped, a couple that are going to be tough catches."

Said wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman: "It was just poor football. It was unfortunate it happened to be our night."

During a standard passing drill in Wednesday's practice, the Hokies' wide receivers caught 23 of 24 passes from backup quarterback Sean Glennon while running various routes. One of the catches was bobbled, but each was otherwise handled effortlessly. The conditions were not similar to Saturday, with the Blacksburg practice field devoid of the night lights, New England chill that neared freezing and big-game pressure associated with an ACC contest.

"All of us got together to talk about the drops we had," Roberts said. "Right now, the only thing we can do is listen to what the coach says. It's really our mental mind-set. We know how to catch, but it's just putting it into a game."

Through seven games, the three primary wide receivers have 34 catches for 440 yards and no touchdowns. Roberts said the group is taking bets in meetings on who will become the first Hokies receiver to catch a touchdown pass this season.

The group has been hurt by a spring injury to Brandon Dillard and suspensions to Zach Luckett and Ike Whitaker. But at this point of the season, the lack of production becomes less forgivable.

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