Quarterbacks grab spotlight at Orange Bowl
Friday, December 31, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Two elite quarterbacks will meet when No. 12 Virginia Tech takes on No. 5 Stanford in Monday's Orange Bowl. But as the build-up to that matchup begins in earnest this week, the discussion has quickly turned into a referendum on how the position is played.
The Cardinal feature Heisman Trophy finalist Andrew Luck, a player many NFL scouts consider a classic drop-back passer and a near certainty to be a top five draft pick when he decides to move on from college football. The junior completed more than 70 percent of his passes this season, finishing the regular season with 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air.
And though Virginia Tech's quarterback, senior Tyrod Taylor, threw for 2,521 yards and a school-record 23 touchdowns this season, he's found himself fielding questions as to whether he'll even get a chance to play the position next year for an NFL team, given his dual-threat style.
"I can sit in the pocket. I believe I can play in any offense," said Taylor, the ACC player of the year. "Early on in my career, maybe I was more of a runner . . . but as I got older, into my junior year, I proved I can be the dropback passer that you need. If given the opportunity, I can show people that I can play quarterback."
While it's Taylor who draws frequent comparisons to former Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, he and Luck actually have similar numbers when forced to use their feet. Taylor finished the season with more rushing yards (637 to 438), but his average of 8.9 yards per carry is just slightly better than Luck's.
When asked about Taylor on Thursday, Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio compared him to "a point guard of a great basketball team; the guy just makes plays many different ways."
He said his biggest concern, though, was how to tackle Taylor in the open field, a fact defensive back Delano Howell confirmed when he said the Cardinal had spent "probably hundreds of hours" reviewing film of Taylor's escapability. "I've never seen a quarterback as shifty as him at the collegiate level," Howell said.
Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer says he's always preferred a quarterback who can keep a play alive but also throw accurately. And he thinks that style is becoming more and more popular, even in the NFL, considering the emergence of quarterbacks such as Vick, Tim Tebow and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. That, though, doesn't mean he isn't a Luck fan as well.
"I think rather than compare them, I think they're both really great quarterbacks that's got a tremendous future ahead of them," Beamer said. "I think they do things a little bit different, but both of them win. And to me, that's the key."
Said Taylor: "It's not a me thing, not personally me against Luck. I have to go out there and prepare myself to win like I do every game, put the team first and do what I have to do to win. Hopefully the NFL scouts will see that."
Williams injury update
Hokies sophomore running back Ryan Williams tweaked a right hamstring injury during pre-bowl practices in Blacksburg two weeks ago, but he told reporters on Thursday that he "expects to play" in the Orange Bowl.
The Manassas native did not participate in the Hokies' first practice in South Florida on Wednesday and saw limited action during Thursday's session. It's the same hamstring injury that forced Williams to miss four games during the regular season, but this time he said it is not nearly as serious. However, he doesn't expect to be 100 percent come game time.
"He understands he's got to get working if he wants to be involved with the ball game," Beamer said. "If it's not right, he doesn't need to play because you want it to be fully right to get in there."