Let Tyrod be Tyrod

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Virginia Tech is in trouble Saturday against Miami. The most impressive team of this young college football season, the Hurricanes are wicked fast, well-rested and riding a big-armed quarterback.

But unbeaten Miami is not unbeatable. Not if Tech coaches let Tyrod be Tyrod.

Junior Tyrod Taylor is the Hokies' starting quarterback, a dual threat capable of touchdown production from anywhere on the field. But in 2009, Taylor appears prisoner to the pocket, hesitant or under strict orders not to run.

On one level, it makes sense. Sean Glennon's graduation left Tech without an established alternative, and if Taylor gets nicked, the operative word in Blacksburg becomes "yikes."

Moreover, refining Taylor's raw passing skills becomes problematic when he's darting upfield at the first sign of protection breakdown.

But let's not kid ourselves. Taylor is a more accomplished runner than passer, and smothering his instincts would be pure folly.

Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain insists Tech is doing nothing of the sort.

"He has become a better quarterback by being able to stay in the pocket and throw the ball," O'Cain told the Daily Press' Norm Wood on Monday. "I think he will give us more of a chance to win (that way) than if every time something flashes in his face, he pulls it down and goes.

"He hasn't been coached any differently. I think the maturation process of understanding what's going on, having confidence in his protection and being able to find the second and third (receiver) now have made it so he hasn't had to pull it down."

But let's look at some numbers.

Last season, Taylor ran for 738 yards on 147 attempts. That's 5 yards a pop and includes sacks.

In three games this season, he's netted 10 yards on 26 rushes. That's 0.4 yards per carry, again sacks included.

No question, the ornery defenses of Alabama and Nebraska are part of the reason. But last year the stout D's of Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia and Cincinnati couldn't contain Taylor. Nor could Clemson's and Florida State's in 2007.

Virginia Tech is 9-1 when Taylor rushes for at least 45 yards, the lone defeat last year at Boston College, where he ran for 110. And even when Taylor hasn't posted big totals, he's made a difference.

His 31-yard scamper set up the go-ahead touchdown against Boston College in the 2007 ACC championship game. A week earlier, his two short scoring runs keyed a 33-21 victory at Virginia.

Taylor has broken 16 runs of 20 yards or more as a Hokie, some on called rushes, others strictly freelance. But only one has come this season, a 46-yarder against Marshall.

Alabama smothered Taylor for minus-26 yards on 10 carries in a 34-24 victory. Remove sacks from the equation, and Taylor gained 12 yards on five attempts.

Nebraska limited Taylor to minus-22 yards on nine rushes. Absent sacks, the numbers were 3 yards on five carries, and only a last-ditch drive fueled by Taylor's 81-yard pass to Danny Coale rescued the 11th-ranked Hokies (2-1).

O'Cain said all three Tech opponents used a "spy" to shadow Taylor and harness his running.

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