- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Virginia Tech parlayed its atypical quarterback math - one plus one equals ACC title - into an Orange Bowl berth last season.

It still isn’t clear whether the Hokies will try that tactic again. After all, there are other areas to figure out before the Aug. 30 opener against East Carolina.

With the start of camp less than a week away - Virginia Tech opens practice Monday in Blacksburg - the defending ACC champion Hokies will be on the clock to determine who will start at quarterback.

But the same is true at tailback. And both receiver spots.

And as a result, maybe, just maybe, there’s a little doubt about just how good the Hokies will be this year.

“That’s what they said in 2004,” fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Glennon said at last week’s ACC Kickoff event. “We won the ACC championship and went to the Sugar Bowl. This year’s pretty similar. That year, Bryan [Randall] was working with a whole new set of receivers, and they were pretty good.”

Yet the quarterback situation still commands plenty of attention. It could be Glennon, a traditional pocket passer who began and ended 2007 as the starter but endured a bitter benching in between. By the time the season was through, he was the MVP of the conference championship game.

Or it could be Tyrod Taylor, the shifty sophomore who started five games last year and doubles as the Hokies’ leading returning rusher.

“They both have an opportunity to go into fall practice,” coach Frank Beamer said. “We have to get that figured out. I think all of us would like to get it down to one quarterback. We needed both of them to win the ACC last year. Both of them made plays that helped us win the ACC, but then in the Orange Bowl I felt we were always one play behind.”

Still, it is difficult to forget just how fortuitously the quarterback shuffle worked to get the Hokies there. The pair shuttled in and out in a Coastal Division-clinching victory at Virginia, then swapped places 18 times - often in the middle of series - when Virginia Tech upended Boston College a week later in the ACC title game.

At least the Hokies know what they possess at quarterback, a luxury compared to nearly half of the ACC and a necessity given the state of the rest of the offense’s skill position.

Although both Glennon and Taylor are plenty experienced, they might be wise to arrive at camp with “Hello, My Name Is …” stickers affixed to their jerseys. Virginia Tech’s top four receivers from last year are gone, as is since-dismissed starting tailback Branden Ore.

Ore’s replacement will come from a pool that includes juniors Kenny Lewis Jr. and Jahre Cheeseman, as well as redshirt freshmen Darren Evans and Josh Oglesby and true freshman Ryan Williams. The group owns a combined 132 career carries, and both Cheeseman (broken fibula) and Lewis (shoulder) suffered injuries in the spring.

That’s a plethora of past performances to draw from compared to the Hokies’ receiver corps. With four seniors gone (including three selected in the NFL Draft) and junior Brandon Dillard done for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon, there is virtually no certainty at the position.

Only two of the possibilities - converted quarterback Ike Whitaker and sophomore Zach Luckett - even caught passes last season, and a crop of true freshmen could be pressed into use if they have solid camps.

“The further you get away from the football, the quicker you can play,” Beamer said. “They’re as far away from the football as you can get. If you get any further, you’ll be out of bounds.”

Even as the Hokies try to winnow their options down to more manageable numbers - from five possibilities at tailback to three and from about 10 receivers down to six - quarterback remains just as curious a contest.

Beamer said despite the inclination to avert predictability and mix up the play-calling regardless of who is in the game, he is considering separating the playbook based on the quarterback. That at least would suggest the chances of switching quarterbacks in the middle of a possession will decrease, though it still seems possible both Glennon and Taylor will play vital roles this fall.

“I give our offensive staff and the two quarterbacks credit because we made it work last year, but it’s still hard,” Beamer said. “Any way you look at it, it’s hard. I want to be very open-minded going into fall practice and make the right choice for our football team.”

Chances are it will be the right one. Despite all their other concerns, both Glennon and Taylor are capable of helping Virginia Tech build on its 27-5 record in ACC games since the school joined the league in 2004.

And regardless of who plays, a continuation of that dominance would permit the Hokies to enjoy whatever quarterback equation they contrive this fall.

“I don’t want to say we’re the favorites. But being the defending conference champions, it’s a tradition we’ve kind of set up at Virginia Tech where we expect to win 10 games and we expect to go to the ACC championship,” Glennon said. “Not being brash or overconfident, but I’d be disappointed with anything less than a trip to Tampa.”

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