Commentary

Glennon, Taylor bring unique strengths to Hokies offense

Originally Published: January 3, 2008
By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

FT. LAUDERDALE -- Virginia Tech has tried this two-quarterback thing before.

[+] EnlargeSean Glennon
James Lang/US PresswireSean Glennon started the first two games of the season, but was benched after the loss to LSU.
The first time, it didn't work.

In 2003, quarterbacks Marcus Vick and Bryan Randall were each given a quarter in the first half to prove themselves as the best and continue playing in the second half. The coaching staff made it a competition, and instead of worrying about beating their opponents, the Hokies were more concerned about winning the job.

"It just didn't work out," coach Frank Beamer said. "It just wasn't the way to go about it.

"What happened, in the Boston College game really, Bryan went in first, scored a couple of times and was on a roll," Beamer recalled. "Then Marcus came in and didn't do as well, threw an interception. The fans were booing. It just didn't work."

Lesson learned.

For the past four games, the system Virginia Tech has developed for quarterbacks Sean Glennon (the passer) and Tyrod Taylor (the runner) has worked well enough to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, a title that earned the Hokies a spot against Kansas in Thursday's FedEx Orange Bowl.

So far, Virginia Tech's system has worked because both players are willing to go along with it, because they have been given margin for error without fear of being benched and because the coaching staff has agreed to it and ironed out the kinks in the logistics of calling the plays.

Beamer said it takes about two or three extra seconds to figure out which quarterback to use.

"It's not just call a play, its call a play and which quarterback is going to run it," he said. "There's a little bit more involved."

[+] EnlargeTyrod Taylor
James Lang/US PresswireTyrod Taylor's ability to open up defenses with his ground game brings a different element to Virginia Tech's attack.
Here's how it works:

Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring is in the coaches' box calling down to Billy Hite, associate head coach and running backs coach. Hite has the signalers right beside him. He tells them the play and they signal it to the quarterback.

The wrinkle in the system is switching the quarterbacks. If a change is coming, Stinespring will either say "alert" or "on deck." If another quarterback is going in, there is no need to signal in the play because the quarterback will run it in. Glennon and Taylor switched 20 times during their regular-season win against Virginia.

"It's not confusing, but at the same time you don't know when you're going in," said Taylor, who has accounted for five passing touchdowns and six rushing. "It could be on any play. You've got to be in tune with the game so when you get in there you know what you have to do."

In order to save clock time and get the system off to a smooth start, Stinespring said he scripts about 20 to 25 plays the night before and will adjust as necessary.

"In the very beginning, it's not an easy venture to go into," said Stinespring. "If it was, if it didn't require a little bit of work or anything, I think a lot of people would do it, but we still feel like the benefits outweighed the costs.

"It's gone about as smooth as it could go. This is a trial-and-error thing. You're kind of going through uncharted waters every time you do it. … We've changed them in every situation you can be in."

[+] Enlarge Frank Beamer
Scott A. Miller/US Presswire Frank Beamer and the Hokies have adjusted their offense to suit their personnel.
Glennon, a redshirt junior, is the more experienced of the two and has a better understanding of the passing game. The entire playbook is open to him and he usually starts. Glennon has completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,636 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Glennon was benched, though, after the second game of the season, an embarrassing 48-7 loss to LSU.

Taylor, a true freshman who had planned to redshirt this season, was first brought in because the Hokies weren't getting the pass protection they needed. He brought more mobility and added the running dimension to the offense.

Taylor started five games until he injured his ankle at Duke, giving Glennon his chance at redemption. Glennon played well against Duke, Boston College and Georgia Tech. By then, Taylor was healthy and the coaching staff had a decision to make.

"I had been playing very well I thought," Glennon said. "I had entertained the idea, 'What are they going to do? Are they going to put me back on the bench? Are they going to put Tyrod back on the bench?'"

At the staff meeting on the Monday following the Georgia Tech game, Beamer looked at quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain and asked him, "What are we going to do about this quarterback situation?"

"I said, 'Well, I don't think I would ever have said this, but I think we ought to play both of them,'" O'Cain said. "He said, 'I do, too.' The entire offensive staff felt the same way.

"Now what we had to do at that point was decide exactly how we wanted to do it," O'Cain said. "That Monday afternoon in their position meeting, I told them, 'We're going to play both of you. I don't know how we're going to do it, but we'll have a plan.'"

[+] EnlargeGlennon and Taylor
James Lang/US PresswireThe dual-QB system has worked because Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor have bought in.
There's actually no set game plan as to how much either of them is going to play. It's strictly situational and based on field position, down and distance and personnel formations.

"You may have 10 plays, you may have 20 plays," Taylor said. "You never know."

Nor does the Kansas defense know.

"Each quarterback is going to have his tendencies," said Jayhawks corner Aqib Talib. "It's like game planning for two different offenses."

Which is exactly what the Jayhawks have done.

"It's to the point now that you put a tape in there and you know what the next play is," said Kansas defensive coordinator Bill Young. "You've seen it so many times."

Not until game time, though, do even Glennon and Taylor know what to expect.

Heather Dinich is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at espn.hd@hotmail.com.