Thursday, December 30, 2010
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: 'I'm a good quarterback'

Tyrod Taylor is confident he can play the position at the next level.

The response left his mouth so quickly and convincingly that it almost seemed as if he'd rehearsed it in front of a mirror.

If Tyrod Taylor has been rehearsing it, that's a good thing. It won't be the last time he hears it. The question he fields from scouts and NFL team officials will be the same one he was asked recently in Blacksburg: When your senior season ends next week, why should a pro team take a chance on you?

"I'll go out there and make plays for you," Taylor said. "I'm a quarterback. I've proven that I'm a quarterback. I can throw every route that you need. I can use my feet to buy time and also to bring yardage to the rushing game.

"I think I'm a good quarterback who can help your team."

Nobody in the ACC -- where Taylor recently garnered player of the year honors -- would disagree with that. Virginia Tech's offensive catalyst led the conference in passing efficiency, throwing for 23 touchdowns and only four picks. He's run for 637 yards, turning countless disasters into positive gains with his ability to extend plays.

Convincing NFL decision-makers that his skills will translate to the next level, though, is a more difficult task. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Taylor as the ninth-best senior quarterback available next April, projecting him as a sixth- or seventh-round pick, and that's among the more optimistic forecasts.

ESPN.com has him pegged as the 25th-best player at his position -- if his position were wide receiver. They don't even include him in their quarterback rankings.

Taylor has no intentions of moving to wideout, though. Not without a fight.

Says Taylor of the contention that he can't stick at QB: "It's just motivation to perform."

He has never lacked that. Despite leaving Hampton High School as a highly regarded recruit, he's faced doubters at every turn.

Sure, he could run. But could he throw? Listed (generously) at 6-foot-1, was he tall enough to stand in the pocket and pitch it around?

"I think he's worked hard to improve his throwing," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I think he's worked hard to improve his accuracy. I think he's always been a very talented guy, and I think he's worked to develop that."

There's no question that physically, Taylor isn't the same player who scampered onto the field amid crisis against LSU in 2007. During the four seasons since, he's shown he can stretch the field with the deep ball, lead receivers on intermediate routes and throw with more touch than he did back then.

In other ways, though, he hasn't changed a bit. And that's a positive.

"How competitive he is, how smart he is, how much in control he is, how his personality is during a football game," Beamer said. "You know, I've never seen him out of control. He always knows what's going on. You put all those things together ... I know if I was in the NFL, I'd be looking at him."

Count Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who played 14 years as a quarterback in the NFL (and mentors the probable No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck) among those who think Taylor looks like he can get the job done at the next level.

"Boy, he sure does," Harbaugh said. "Just really impressed with him as a passer, as a runner. Strong, a leader, sturdy, a young guy who gets out of the pocket. I love the way he keeps his eyes downfield. There's a lot of good running quarterbacks who break out of the pocket and you know they're just going to run. He gets out of the pocket, his eyes are downfield, scanning."

Can those eyes spot a suitor, though? The NFL Draft is a crazy process. Once a scout files you away under a particular category (he's a runner, he's a "college" QB, he's too short, etc.), you usually stay there in his mind.

The good news -- as Tim Tebow can attest -- is that it only takes one organization to believe in you to get a shot. At 34-7 as a starter, Taylor is the winningest quarterback in Tech history. On Monday, he'll have one more chance to enhance that record and show scouts what he can do.

Still, you can't help but wonder if it's the last time we'll see him on network TV.

"I've said it before and I would tell [NFL scouts]: Tyrod Taylor gives you a chance to win the ballgame every time he steps on the field," Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. "Don't put it in a box in terms of high school level, college level or NFL level. Whatever level, I think Tyrod Taylor, if he's on your team and he steps on the field, he gives you a chance to win.

"Period."

More like comma. There are still tests to take, questions to answer, people to convince.

In the end, though, Tyrod Taylor has been nothing but successful and classy since the first day he stepped on this campus. So here's hoping an NFL team agrees with Stinespring-- and gets rewarded for it.

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