BLACKSBURG, VA. (AP) - When Virginia Tech takes the field Monday night against No. 3 Boise State in a huge opening game, the 10th-ranked Hokies' offense will be in a new role.
For the first time in recent memory, it's the unquestioned strength of the team, the unit being leaned on to help defensive coordinator Bud Foster groom a young defense.
The Hokies' defense routinely ranks among the best in the country, but there are seven new starters on Foster's side of the ball _ and lots of experienced playmakers on the offensive side.
"We're playing against an offense that, I believe, is running on all cylinders and I'm excited about that because it's been awhile since we had an offense like that," Foster said.
The team's final scrimmage heading into game week certainly backed him up.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Hokies' most important player in yet another season of great expectations, completed 16 of 17 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Having Taylor behind center allows coach Frank Beamer to sleep a little easier.
"I feel the same way with him out there as I did when Michael Vick was out there," he said, speaking of the dual-threat quarterback who led the Hokies to the 1999 national championship game against Florida State. "Any play has a chance of going a long ways."
But it's not just Taylor who has game-breaking skills.
Andre Smith took a reception 95 yards for a touchdown in the scrimmage. And he's a tight end.
Jarrett Boykin caught seven for 134 yards. He's the team's best go-up-and-get-it receiver. He led the Hokies with five touchdown catches last season.
Star tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans got limited work, as planned, but sophomore David Wilson ran for 61 yards on 11 carries and returned a kickoff 43 yards. Beamer was considering allowing him to redshirt this season, but since decided that he's too valuable.
"I think you need to get your best players on the football field," he said.
This year, the Hokies' best can be more explosive than any team in school history, and Boykin thinks having grown up together will help the offense live up to its expectations.
"We feel like eveything's starting to come along even more," the 6-foot-2 junior said. "Last year, it was getting there. This year, we're just going to try to keep it rolling."
Boise State coach Chris Petersen said it was rolling by the time the Hokies finished 10-3 and averaged 31.8 points last year. Taylor threw for 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions, and Williams, a redshirt freshman, ran for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns.
This year, Williams will give up some carries to Darren Evans, who set Atlantic Coast Conference freshman records with 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2008 before Williams shattered them.
Evans is returning from left knee surgery, but said he's back to 100 percent.
"They are so physical to start with," Petersen said. "A big physical offensive line, then you put the two running backs back there. And so that's a tremendous concern for anyone, anytime, anyhow. When you worry about the running game and can't stop the running game, that's a problem. Now you throw in a fifth-year senior (quarterback) with a couple of big, good receivers, that's another element now that we've got to concern ourselves with."
Taylor also can run, or scramble behind the line to buy time, and Petersen recalled his 9-second escape act last year that led to him throwing a winning TD pass against Nebraska. The 11-yard strike came with 21 seconds to go, lifting the Hokies to a 16-15 victory.
"You've got a fifth year senior who knows the offense inside and out. He can throw very well and he's got this God-given athleticism that makes it really, really scary," he said.
Scarier still, the Hokies used the offensive game plan they drew up for Monday night's game in Landover, Md., in their final scrimmage. Taylor said he thinks his unit is ready.
"I believe so," he said. "I believe this offense is prepared to play a game."
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