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Tyrod Taylor’s legacy could end as greatest ever

Not too many Virginia Tech football fans think back to September 8, 2007 with any fondness.

That was the day the Hokies were pasted to the tune of 48-7 by the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La. However, somewhere in the middle of that forgettable trip to the Bayou, a legendary career began. There were six minutes, 52 seconds left in the second quarter, to be exact.

That’s when Tyrod Taylor took his first snap under center as the Hokies’ quarterback.

Despite the humiliation of such a lopsided defeat on national television in prime time, Hokie fans were hopeful from a poised performance from a kid who’d only been in college three weeks had in perhaps the game’s most difficult environment.

He’d yet to take a midterm exam, but Taylor had escaped Death Valley alive…barely.

Nearly three years later, he’s in position to finish his career as arguably the best quarterback to ever don the maroon and orange.

In three years, he’s compiled a 28-6 record as a starter; in one of those losses he was injured on the game’s first play.

In comparison with another great quarterback this decade, Bryan Randall was 27-12 in three seasons as a starter.

Taylor has already won two ACC championships, including in 2008, when he was named the championship game MVP.

He also helped the Hokies win their first BCS bowl since the BCS era began when they beat Cincinnati 20-7 in the FedEx Orange Bow that same season.

Taylor hardly posted gaudy numbers in his first two years, combining to throw seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a 56 percent completion rate.

Entering his junior season, there was more than a few rumblings about Taylor relying much too heavily on his swift feet than his shaky arm.

Even before his breakout junior season, though, it was hard to argue one thing: he was a winner.

His junior season brought with it a gigantic leap of improvement. He threw 13 touchdown passes along with only five interceptions, and he led the conference with a 149.39 passing efficiency rating.

He was the most efficient passer in a league that included Riley Skinner (most accurate quarterback in league history), Jacory Harris (early-season Heisman candidate), Russell Wilson (2008 first-team All-ACC/Rookie of the Year), and several other elite quarterbacks. It’s safe to say Taylor took a step forward in 2009.

Expectations are high for the 2010 edition of Hokie football. Despite all the talent he’s surrounded by, the pressure to succeed falls heavily on Taylor’s right shoulder.

If all goes according to planned, Taylor has every opportunity to proclaim himself the best quarterback Tech has ever seen.

The other names in the discussion include Randall, Michael Vick, Bob Schweickert, Don Strock, and Jim Druckenmiller.

Of those five, only Vick, Schweickert and Strock were ever named as an All-American. The Associated Press named Strock to the third team in 1972. Vick was a second-teamer in 2000, according to the AP and The Sporting News.

The obvious concrete advantage Vick has over everyone else is his freshman season in 1999, when he led the Hokies to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the BCS national championship game.

Not only did Vick lead the program to its most successful season ever, he took it to an unprecedented level of respect across the nation. He almost single-handedly began the transformation of Tech from an up-and-comer to national elite.

Still, he only spent two seasons in Blacksburg before bolting for the NFL, and that is the biggest argument against naming him the greatest Hokie quarterback ever.

If Taylor, low and behold, were to take his team to the national title game this season, it would likely quiet much of the distinction between his career and Vick’s.

Before there was Vick taking the program to new heights, there was Jim Druckenmiller doing the same. He led Tech to consecutive Big East championships in 1995 and 1996, including a victory in the 1996 Sugar Bowl against Texas, 28-7.

Tech was just escaping the depths of irrelevancy when Druckenmiller brought them to the front of the pack in one of the best conferences in the country at the time.

Long before anyone else, Schweickert was the first great quarterback at Tech. He remains the only two-time All-American to play under center for the Hokies.

You want balance? Schweickert was as balanced as they come, passing for 1,725 yards during his career while rushing for 1,723.

Still, as great as he was for his time, he never made it to the postseason and is rarely mentioned among Hokie legends.

Strock came about a decade later, when he set passing record after passing record at the school.

He held the school record for career passing yards with 6,009 until Randall shattered it in 2004.

Strock never saw the postseason as a Hokie, either.

If Taylor improves on a promising 2009 season in his senior year, he could be everything the former greats were wrapped into one.

He’ll stack up statistically with Strock and Randall; he’ll oversee more program success than Druckenmiller and maybe Vick. He is well on his way to becoming the winningest quarterback in school history.

It would take several pieces falling into place, but he just might also end up being the best, period.