Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor Confident Offense Can Carry the Hokies
That's where Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor sat, confidently explaining to the media here at the annual ACC Football Kickoff on Sunday how the Hokies are prepared to lean on their potentially prolific offense this season.
Preseason chatter surrounding Virginia Tech usually starts with the defense. Not this year. The offense is receiving a majority of the attention.
"We've won games with our offense the past couple of years," Taylor said.
"But I think this is the year we step up and win more with our offense. I think our offense will have to step it up and play at a high level."
That shouldn't be a problem behind the soft-spoken but talented Taylor, who returns for his third season as Tech's starting quarterback and has a firm grip on Tech's offense.
In a conference rich with quarterbacks, Taylor might be the most athletic. He passed for 2,311 yards last year -- his 9.51 yards per completion led the ACC and the nation -- and rushed for 370, He has 18 rushing touchdowns in his career.
The best part is Taylor won't be a one-man show.
Only Alabama's combo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson may be able to trump Tech's Ryan Williams and Darren Evans in terms of backfield productivity and excitement.
Williams ran for a school-record 1,655 yards with 22 touchdowns last year, becoming the first freshman in ACC history to lead the league in rushing and scoring. Evans set an ACC freshman rushing record (1,265 yards) in 2008 before missing last year with a knee injury.
How the pair shares the workload remains a question. Coaches introduced new offensive packages in spring practice to take advantage of their loaded backfield. Taylor knows this much: "I respect those guys (Ingram and Richardson) and they are great backs, but I will take (Williams and Evans) over anyone in the country."
With eight of the Hokies' top 10 pass-catchers returning, there's also a good chance Tech could average more than 200 yards passing per game for the first time since 1995 -- a fact that Taylor didn't know.
The Hokies also return six offensive linemen with starting experience.
"I think over the last year we've changed," said Taylor, who expects additional new offensive sets to be installed when fall practice begins.
"We have more experience and talent on the offensive side of the ball."
Graves, a tackle and the lone returning starter along the defensive line, quickly agreed.
But he wasn't ready to circle Tech's defense as a weak link despite losing seven starters from last year's unit that ranked first in the ACC in points allowed (15.6 points per game) and 12th in the nation in total defense (295.5 yards per game).
In fact, the Hokies actually lead the nation in total defense over the past six seasons with a 268.33 average. The next closest team is defending national champion Alabama, which has allowed 275.32 yards per game during that time.
"I think what it (preseason attention) shows you is how much people think of our offense," Graves said. "As a defense, we will continue to work hard and try to improve each day. We will be ready."
That's a good thing since Tech, as always, has national title aspirations.
The Hokies can make an immediate impression with their highly anticipated Sept. 6 season opener against Boise State. Both teams are expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 10. Tech also closes November with a three-game stretch against Georgia Tech at home followed by road trips to North Carolina and Miami.
If the Hokies are to survive, perception needs to be reality this season.
"As I said, I think it has changed -- the offense can win games," Taylor said.