Friday, July 14, 2006

Hokie Football: The Second Coming of (Michael) Vick?

recruit_e_clausen_412

Virginia's very own Tyrod Taylor is on the verge of entering the national spotlight, joining the likes of California standout Jimmy Clausen (above), who has already commited to joining the Fighting Irish.

While strolling through ESPN.com this morning, I came across their recent high school football recruit list they had updated, entitled "The ESPN 150", featuring their choice of 150 of the nation's best high school and prep school seniors.

Just upon glancing at the large collection of names already full of prestige, yet still booming with potential, perhaps the only name that caught my eye, aside from the top overall ranked player, Jimmy Clausen, was that of a Hampton, Va. quarterback whom critics and fans alike have already begun to compare to the likes of Virginia high school football legends Michael Vick and Ronald Curry.

That being said however, being compared at such a young age to players with incredible football pedigrees might come off to some players as not that flattering compliment, but as an intimidating assumption, for a comparison like that leaves one with extremely big shoes to fill, and Taylor, of all people, knows this. Fortunately for him, filling those shoes with another impressive season will be that much easier this year, as he will not have to play with the added pressure of his senior performance making-or-breaking his chance at a college offer. The Hampton Crabber has recently stated that his list of over 50 college offers was narrowed down to two, with Florida University being one, and Virginia Tech being the other.

Yes, I know. Your interest in this article just increased dramatically. And it should have, for the chance of this young prospect with all kinds of talent and heaps of potential coming to Blacksburg is a reality -- something that has coaches at Blacksburg salivating over the thought of him playing at Lane.

So with that being said, still in the dark as to who I've been referring to? None of this sound familiar at all? Then I guess you haven't been paying that much attention to the the recruiting sites lately, but not to worry, because without further ado, let me take the time to introduce to you the name of a football phenom that you will undoubtedly be hearing in the many years to come:

Tyrod Taylor.

Come a few years time on the college level, he will be all the rage. Best believe it.

I first became aware of this talent in early January over the Winter break in, when during my time back home from Tech (in Yorktown -- you know, where we beat the British), my parents received the sudden urge to witness a game featuring two of the area's top high school basketball programs, the Hampton Crabbers and the Bethel Bruins (where he went), after reading about the matchup in the local paper.

Upon making their decision, I was asked to come along and agreed to do so, giving into the hype, knowing that these two bitter rivals were pitted off against one another in not just any old, regular matchup -- this game was going to be for the championship of Bethel's esteemed Christmas tournament.

After making about a ten minute drive down the street to the nearby venue, we arrived to the ticket booth surrounding the school gym with loads of time to spare before tip-off, but despite that, the facility was already approaching its sold-out status and we had to scrunch our way into the back of the crowded stands, slightly scattered between other families and fans awaiting the start of the game.

As tip-off time slowly started to approach, both teams entered the gym for warmups, when I casually first catch a glimpse of the Hampton standout in Taylor with whom his reputation I was only slightly familiar with, and the only reason I remember noticing him was because of how he stood out with a puffy afro that rivaled that of Mr. Ben Wallace himself.

In my forgetful mind, the game came and went -- my only true memories being Bethel winning the game on a shot with a second remaining on the clock, as well as the crowd around me seeming obviously impressed by the talent of Taylor as he wowed everyone watching with an array of athletic moves and finishes at the basket. Though I forget the exact amount of double-digit points he finished with (which was not available online for internet confirmation), I do remember Taylor earning MVP honors of the entire tournament (which was available online for internet confirmation),a respectable feat to accomplish in one of the state's better, if not best, Christmas tournaments.

All in all for Taylor, though an impressive athlete on the basketball court, word is Taylor's skills on the hardwood don't even compare to the insane amount of talent he posseses on the gridiron. In fact, as a junior last year, not only did the junior throw for nine touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards, but he also showed he had the coveted ability to create plays on the run, as he racked up a total of 21 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards on the ground. Time and time again, Taylor was able to find the end zone, and his success as a complete all-around threat under center was all the reason why the Crabbers finished with a 14-1 record.

(Highlights of the team's season included a 66-20 romping over the Vick's former high school in Warwick, followed by the avenging of the Crabber's only loss on the season -- a 6-12 defeat at the hands of the Adibi's former high school in Phoebus, by defeating the Phantoms a month later by a final score of 29-7).

Bringing a pass-first but "run when necessary" mentality to the quarterback position similar to the Vicks, Taylor (left) finished last season with a total of 30 scores in addition to more than 2,500 all-purpose yards -- as a junior. Come next year, the reality of the Hampton Roads dual-threat QB coming to Blacksburg is surprisingly much closer than you'd be inclined to think.


Following the team's remarkable season which included a run all the way to the state finals, Taylor capped off the successful season the only way he knew how -- leading the Crabbers a 15-8 victory, and its 17th AAA state football championship, finishing the game with a total of 106 yards on 15 carries and a score.

Ever since his success during his junior year, Taylor has been the recipient of consistent praise and accolades, as even the area's paper, the Daily Press had him crowned as the area's Athlete of the Year. ESPN's Top 150, which lists the young Taylor as the 13th best player in the entire nation, also has him as one of the top three quarterbacks in America to keep an eye on. Even the highly respected (and worshipped) Rivals.com gave the Virginia Prospect a five-star rating, in addition to his ranking as the second best dual-threat quarterback and the 18th best player in the entire country.

Still not impressed?

Perhaps the fact that the kid runs a 4.5 40-yd dash, or that he has a 32-inch vertical, or that he has some size as a 6'1, 200 pound 16-year-old does it for you. Perhaps it doesn't, I agree -- he's not some giant physical specimen under center. But looking back, our greatest playcaller to date didn't possess the biggest of all statures -- in fact he was smaller at that same phase of his career.

In the end, what it all boils down to catching my eye about Taylor is the fact that the kid honestly (and I don't have never said this) reminds me of that former quarterback who wore that sacred Hokie number seven, and come 2007, the possibility of him coming to the 'Burg is a strong possibility, as Rivals.com reports:

It's down to an either/or situation for Hampton (Va.) dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After narrowing his list of over fifty offers down to a final two of Virginia Tech and Florida, the nation's No. 18 rated player will make his final decision in a couple of weeks while out in California participating in the EA SPORTS Elite 11 Camp.
50/50? When it comes to a quarterback this good joining your program, I'm not complaining.

And when it's all said and done, I'm pretty sure this guy isn't either.

2Tyrod Taylor
School:Hampton High
Height:6-foot-1
Weight200 Pounds
Jersey Number:5
Position:Quarterback
40-yard dash:4.55 secs
Vertical32 Inches
Shuttle3.93 secs
College ChoicesVirginia Tech / Florida

Scout.com Player Evaluation: Tyrod Taylor
STRENGTHS
 + Accuracy / Consistency
 + Running Ability / Mobility
 + Touch
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
 - Size

Biography:
As a passer Taylor has all the throws in his arsenal. He can throw with zip or touch, is very accurate and throws a great deep ball. When forced out of the pocket Taylor shows excellent accuracy when throwing on the run, even against his body. While in the pocket he is very tough to bring down because of his exceptional quickness, hips and footwork.
Last season, Taylor led Hampton to the Group AAA Division 5 State Championship and earned Associate Press All-State honors after passing for 1,544 yards and nine touchdowns, and rushing for 1,044 yards and 21 touchdowns.

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