Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Coaches, let Tyrod be Tyrod

BLACKSBURG — Apparently, the party’s over.

For a columnist, last year was the golden age of Virginia Tech football fun. Win or lose, you could waltz — and brother, there’s nothing better than waltzin’ — into the Hokies’ weekly football press conference, kick off your shoes and just wait for the laser-light show. If coach Frank Beamer wasn’t ripping off redshirts, he was delivering passionate defenses of his offense in response to a guy on the previous night’s call-in show.

Either way, it was going to be a newsworthy event. The Beamer catchphrase “out of whack,” may it rest in peace, got its genesis at a Tuesday presser in 2008. So did
Purnell Sturdivant’s “our offense is pretty much predictable” bombshell. Several years ago, the term “ring-a-ding-ding” entered our consciousness and eventually spawned a T-shirt sale, all thanks to the Tuesday press conference.  

But this is a different year. Tech’s taking a different approach.

And we all must adjust.

On Mondays, the call-in show is no more. On Tuesdays, the players are placed on podiums with television cameras pointing at their eyes, providing the quintessential
anti-truth serum. Beamer seems in no mood to talk anything else but Marshall, which is Tech’s 20-point-underdog opponent Saturday.

There is no quarterback controversy festering, no redshirt to torch. Instead, there’s persistent talk about making that one extra block, executing that one particular
assignment and taking it one game at a time.

You don’t want to read that.

So columnists like me, sadly, are actually forced to come up with their own opinions.

And here’s mine: Tyrod Taylor needs to be set free. He needs to run, needs to use every asset he has, injury risk be damned.

All preseason, we heard Taylor talk about how he wanted to be a more complete quarterback.

A more effective thrower.

A more poised pocket passer.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Taylor should aspire to be those things, because all improvements would help Tech shake off some of the offensive struggles
they’ve experienced in recent years.

But none of that should run counter to using Taylor’s greatest proven strength, which is turning broken plays — or designed QB draws — into big gains as a rusher.
Throughout his career, Taylor has gained no fewer than 10 yards roughly 40 percent of the time he’s crossed the line of scrimmage.

Discounting sacks, Taylor ran the ball just five times in Tech’s 34-24 loss to Alabama. You can make that four attempts if you toss out the errant option pitch that was
credited as a run by the QB.

Consider running back Ryan Williams among the “very surprised” that the total was that low.

“Their defensive schemes were very tricky, and it tricked the offensive line and tricked myself at times,” Williams said. “So I’m not sure if it came too fast for him to take off
and run and make more plays with his feet. I’m not sure what was the process going through his head, but I was kind of surprised he didn’t make the kind of usual plays
that Tyrod makes with his feet.”

So was receiver Dyrell Roberts, who said he recognized during spring ball that Taylor was taking fewer chances in the running game.

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said Tech called fewer designed runs for Taylor against Alabama but gave him multiple chances to make the on-the-spot decision
to run. That’s OK, but the green light isn’t enough.

The designed call is important, too. Tech should encourage Taylor to run, with the fear of injury fired as far downfield as its national-championship hopes.

Perhaps then the party can return to Blacksburg.

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