Experienced Randall prepared for run
The assumption is that Bryan Randall is Virginia Tech's starting quarterback until Marcus Vick is ready to take over.
But the way Randall has opened the 2003 season, Vick's wait could be a long one.
Randall has gotten out of the gate in strong fashion, completing 35-of-48 passes (72.9 percent) for 431 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Randall's passing efficiency rating of 169.0 ranks eighth nationally. Most importantly, the 6-foot, 222-pound junior has led the No. 8 Hokies to two decisive wins heading into Thursday night's non-conference showdown with Texas A&M in Blacksburg, Va.
But that hasn't stilled the steady chorus of Virginia Tech followers who would like to see another Vick, namely Michael's little brother, run the Hokies' offense. Who could blame them? It was Michael Vick, after all, that put Virginia Tech on the college football map.
When fans see Marcus, they think Michael. It's not hard to see why, either. Marcus looks, talks and throws (except righthanded) like Michael. Marcus even plays like his older brother. In his only two series of action this season, Vick led Virginia Tech to a pair of touchdowns.
A man could get itchy wondering when the ax was going to fall. But not Randall.
"No, I don't look over my shoulder because when you start doing that, it takes you out of your game," Randall said. "All I can worry about is what I do on the field."
What Randall is doing on the field is worrisome. To his opponents. In the season opener, Randall sliced and diced Central Florida's defense, completing 22-of-28 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. In the 43-0 romp of James Madison on Sept. 6, Randall opened the game by scoring on a 43-yard run and threw for 153 yards.
Okay, so they're not spectacular numbers against less-than-stellar competition. But those who know, say that Randall has made considerable improvement over 2002 when his trick-or-treat performances resulted in an up-and-down season for Virginia Tech.
Randall was brilliantly efficient early in the season, leading the Hokies to eight straight wins and a No. 3 national ranking. But turnovers plagued Virginia Tech and Randall down the stretch, resulting in four defeats over the last five regular-season games and a quick exit from the national championship race.
"He learned from the mistakes he made last year," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. "You just don't see the same mistakes. He's throwing the ball more accurately. He knows where to go with it quicker. From every standpoint, he's improved himself."
Not that Randall didn't have his moments last season. He set a Big East single-game record by throwing for 504 yards against Syracuse and tied a conference mark with five touchdown passes in the same game. He ran for 125 yards against West Virginia and 132 against Miami.
The peaks and valleys he suffered through in 2002 have made him a much better quarterback, Randall says.
"Experience means a great deal," said Randall, a native of Williamsburg, Va. "The better quarterbacks out there are the experienced ones. The more games you play and the more times you get behind center, the more comfortable you start to get and the more confidence you start to build. I feel a lot more poised and more confident in myself. I'm prepared a lot better than I was last year."
Beamer has said he plans to use Vick, a redshirt freshman, as often as possible this season. But, he also makes clear who is No. 1.
"At our place, Bryan is the starter and Marcus is getting better," Beamer said.
Randall is taking nothing for granted. He knows that any misstep could result in his role and that of Vick's reversing. "He pushes the best out of me and I hope I do the same for him," Randall said. "We're not here to down each other or be at each other's throat. At the same time, it's good competition. When you have two competitors, they want to go out and play. If I'm in Marcus' position, I'd want to take the starter's spot."
The way Randall has started the 2003 season, it's obvious he doesn't plan on giving it up anytime soon.
Jorge Milian covers the Big East for the Palm Beach Post.
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