Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor entered the 2008 season planning to redshirt after starting five games as a true freshman and splitting time with incumbent starter Sean Glennon. That plan changed one game into the Hokies' season as Glennon suffered a minor injury, Taylor took the reigns of a sputtering offense and never looked back in a 10-4 season capped by an Atlantic Coast Conference title and a win in the Orange Bowl.
This season, Glennon is gone, there's no talk of a redshirt and Taylor is firmly entrenched under center for the No. 13 ranked Hokies in their match up with No. 19 ranked Nebraska on Saturday.
Without the cloud of uncertainty hanging over his playing status to open his first two seasons in Blacksburg, Taylor said knowing he's the quarterback has made his play better and only enhanced his preparation. He feels more comfortable and confident this season.
"That was a big thing for me and why I stayed here all off-season to work on things and build more chemistry with the team and be more of a leader on the field and off the field," he said. "I think I've done a good job of that and we're ready for the season to keep going on."
Through two games the dual-threat Taylor has guided the 1-1 Hokies to 380 yards of total offense and 38 points per game while throwing for 252 yards and running for 32. Taylor finished last season with 1,036 yards passing and two touchdowns, completing 57.2-percent of his passes and adding 738 yards and seven TD on the ground, despite playing much of the year with a nagging high ankle sprain.
Taylor spent the entire summer in Blacksburg working on the physical and mental sides of his game. His main off-season goal: improving his ability to read defenses.
"I'm getting the ball out faster to receivers now and letting them make plays," he said.
A career 55-percent passer, Taylor already sees the off-season work paying off even if his early season 50-percent throwing percentage doesn't show it.
"I see differences from this year to last year," said Taylor of his improved passing. "I just have to keep watching film and getting better in the film room and on the field."
So does that mean the speedy 6-1, 216-pound scrambler nicknamed "T-Mobile" by his teammates is passer first, runner second?
Not necessarily, he says.
"I'm more likely to pass but I'm just out there playing the game," he said. "I don't go into the game predicting what I'm going to do. I just let the game come to me. If a pass play is called and it's open I believe I have the arm strength to get the ball anywhere on the field. If it breaks down I can also run too."
A lot of Taylor's running will be predicated, he said, on what defenses try to do, or not do, to contain him.
"If all the attention is on me it does tend to open running lanes and passing lane for other guys. I don't prefer any defense over another to work against, I just have to go out an execute and work against all of them."
Taylor completed 9-of-15 passes for 171 yards and ran for another 87 and a touchdown on 15 carries against Nebraska in last season's 35-30 victory in Lincoln. His 258 yards of total offense was the fourth highest total in his career.
"It was a good experience for me and the offense," said Taylor. "We got clicking there early. It was a great experience for us to go in there and play like we did."
This year Taylor won't have All-ACC running back Darren Evans, who ran for 1,265 yards and 11 TDs a year ago, to take the load of the Hokie offense after the sophomore went down for the season with an August knee injury. But two freshmen, David Wilson and Ryan Williams have stepped up nicely to fill Evans' void and relieve some of the pressure on Taylor. The pair each ran for more than 160 yards as part of a 444 yard rushing effort in the Hokie's 52-10 over Marshall last Saturday.
"They're doing a great job," Taylor said of Wilson and Williams. "They're playing well, I think they're playing better than expected. We knew they were all talented but how they've come in and showed us they can play at this level has been very impressive.
"You could tell they weren't scared and hey were ready for the opportunity to go in there. And they've been going good so far."
Taylor knows his team will be facing an improved and more experienced defense in Coach Bo Pelini's second season. It's something he and his teammates will have to be ready for.
"We know they're going to switch some things up and some things they're going to play the same," Taylor said of the Blackshirts. "We just have to go out and execute the plays that are going to be called. It's going to be like that all four quarters."