BLACKSBURG – When Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor and Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt arrived at their respective institutions as freshmen in 2007, there was a level of greatness fans of both programs expected the quarterbacks to attain.
That's the nature of fandom – no dream is too unattainable. As both quarterbacks close in on impressive career records heading into Thursday night's meeting in Blacksburg, it's obvious fans and recruiting analysts were actually right about both of these guys for a change.
Taylor is already No. 20 Virginia Tech's career leader in rushing yards (2,064) by a quarterback. He also leads Virginia Tech quarterbacks for most wins (29) as a starter under coach Frank Beamer. With 95 more yards, Taylor will surpass Bryan Randall, a Bruton High graduate, for Virginia Tech's career total offense record (Randall had 8,034 yards from 2001 to '04).
Nesbitt has also made his mark at Georgia Tech (5-3 overall, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), which needs a win Thursday night against Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-0) to keep alive any hopes the Yellow Jackets have for a second straight ACC title.
He's the ACC's career leader in terms of rushing touchdowns (33) by a quarterback. He needs 42 more yards to pass Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler for the ACC career record in rushing yards by a quarterback (Dantzler had 2,761 yards from 1998 to 2001).
Getting either to discuss what it all means to them is like trying to get answers from the Sphinx.
"I don't worry about the awards and stuff like that," Taylor said. "I can just go out there and control the things I can control, and that's going out there and being the best player on the field each week."
Not exactly the "I love me some me" attitude you'd expect from one of the nation's most accomplished senior quarterbacks, huh? Well, Nesbitt is even less forthcoming.
"I have a chance (at the ACC rushing record for quarterback)," Nesbitt said. "I just have to go out and play my game. I'm not worrying about breaking a record. I'm worried about a win.
"I think I've had a good career. I made the best of what I had and I'm still doing it."
Taylor came out of Hampton High considered by most recruiting analysts to be the nation's best dual-threat quarterback. His value as a running threat was never questioned, but it took him a while to develop into a guy that could hurt defenses with his right arm.
After completing 56 percent of his passes for 1,963 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions combined in his first two seasons, while splitting time with Sean Glennon, Taylor's passing prowess has emerged in the last two seasons. Since the start of his junior year, Taylor has passed for 3,913 yards (completing 64 percent of his passes this season), 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
"It's hard to prepare for him," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose team defeated Virginia Tech 28-23 last season. "We haven't been able to tackle him in three years."
Taylor has a streak of 87 consecutive passes without an interception, dating back to the Oct. 2 game at North Carolina State. He has thrown 10 touchdowns since his last interception – quite a feat for a guy that's dealing with a lot of responsibilities at the line of scrimmage.
"We don't give him the whole playbook, but we'll give him a combination of maybe a couple plays and a protection," Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain said. "We want this play or that play depending on what (the defense does). If they do this, there's a certain protection we're going to do, and he gets us in the right route."
Nesbitt was also considered to be among the nation's 10 best dual-threat quarterbacks coming out of Greene County High in Greensboro, Ga. Though he passed for 2,256 yards, 32 touchdowns and four interceptions as a high school senior, his passing game never really developed at Georgia Tech. Then again, his raison d'etre as the leader of the Yellow Jackets offense changed when Johnson took over in '08.
Nesbitt became the prototypical option-style quarterback – with the 6-foot-1, 217-pound frame of a running back. This season, he leads the nation's top rushing offense (317 yards per game).
In '08, Nesbitt took over the starting role and ran for 693 yards. He followed that effort last season with 1,037 rushing yards. He's sixth in the ACC this season with 651 rushing yards.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer remembers what Nesbitt did to his defense in each of the last two seasons. Last year, Nesbitt ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
In '08, Virginia Tech won 20-17, but Nesbitt picked up 151 yards rushing and a touchdown to go along with 109 yards passing and a touchdown. As much as Beamer appreciates what Taylor has done for his program, there's a healthy amount of respect for Nesbitt's game as well.
"I think here lately (Taylor) has been very much in control, he's kept plays alive finding guys down the field," Beamer said.
"I think he's a tremendous quarterback. There's a good one [Nesbitt] on the other side, too, who's hard to tackle and runs that offense very, very well."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun