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May 12, 2009

Taylor continues to improve as quarterback, while Clayton comes out of spring as No. 2

By: Jimmy Robertson


5 Tyrod Taylor (6-1, 216, Jr.)

12 Ju-Ju Clayton (6-0, 215, r-Fr.)

7 Marcus Davis (6-4, 231, r-Fr.)

16 Jeff Beyer (6-4, 225, r-Sr.)

Most people focused on the battle for the No. 2 job at quarterback and for good reason. After all, Tyrod Taylor is entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback after starting the final 10 games of last season and leading the Hokies to both an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl win.

Taylor, a rising junior, got enough reps this spring to work on the areas in which he needed to improve, including a smoother throwing motion – an issue Tech’s staff feels got blown out of proportion a bit. Taylor’s performance on the field and his leadership on it and off it left quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain feeling pleased about the rising star’s game heading into August practices.

“I’m very pleased with Tyrod,” O’Cain said. “The last three or four games of last year, you could see him really becoming a quarterback. He wasn’t just an athlete out there behind center. The game started slowing down for him. He played much better and he played well this spring.

“He’s aware of what is going on before the snap, and that’s critical for a quarterback. If you don’t know what’s going on before the snap, you’re not going to be successful. He’s got command of our offense now and he manages the game well. He’s much more improved.”

Taylor closed out the spring completing 16-of-33 for 188 yards with a touchdown in the spring game. He wore the yellow jersey for all the scrimmages and for the spring game, signifying that he wasn’t to be tackled as the coaching staff sought to keep him healthy this spring. O’Cain said the yellow jersey actually helped Taylor with his game.

“It forced him to keep his options open down the field,” O’Cain said. “He couldn’t just take off and run. He had to be patient and look for second and third options if the first was covered. He did that, and I thought that was a positive. Overall, I’m pleased with where he is.”

Ju-Ju Clayton
Ju-Ju Clayton, a rising redshirt freshman, staved off Marcus Davis in the battle for the No. 2 job. Clayton spent last fall in O’Cain’s meeting room while redshirting and absorbed a lot of what was taking place. That put him ahead of Davis, who wasn’t able to do much last fall because of a shoulder injury that ultimately needed surgery.

Clayton got better as the spring went along. He threw two touchdown passes in each of the final two scrimmages leading up to the spring game. But in the spring game, he suffered a tough outing, completing just 4-of-15 for 103 yards. He threw one touchdown on a screen pass to Ryan Williams, but he also threw an interception and fumbled once.

“His decision making was fine,” O’Cain said. “He went where he was supposed to go with the ball, but he didn’t make the right pass in certain situations. But that’s something we can correct. He needs to throw a lot this summer and work with those receivers and work on his consistency throwing the ball. The more he throws, the better he’ll get.

“I’m pleased with where Ju-Ju is at, though he’s not right where he needs to be. He has a good knowledge of our offense and I want him to work on learning about what’s happening on the other side of the ball. He moved around okay. He’s got a little wiggle to him. He’s just got a knack for getting things done out there and that’s a positive.”

As for Davis, Tech’s staff hasn’t eliminated him from the quarterback competition just yet, even though they moved him to receiver with four practices left this spring. In the spring game, he caught three passes for 48 yards, showing his versatility and athleticism, but the staff may take a look at him again in August.

“Marcus was just so far behind when we started,” O’Cain said. “He was at receiver when he first got here last August and then he had the shoulder injury (throwing arm), and his arm just isn’t where it needs to be.

“Can he play quarterback? Yes, he can play it mentally and physically if he builds up his arm strength. We want him to work on throwing the ball and building up his arm strength and then we’ll see what happens.

“He needs to be out there playing because he can help us. It’s like I told him, ‘We don’t need you standing beside me on the sideline.’ We need for him to be out there somewhere.”