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Virginia Tech's passing game even more critical

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Now is when we need to see just how much improvement quarterback Tyrod Taylor and his receivers have made since last season.

No doubt the group showed significant progress over the final few games of 2008, but with record-setting tailback Darren Evans out for the season, it would certainly help the Hokies if they could depend on their passing game while freshmen David Wilson and Ryan Williams get acclimated to college football games.

I know Virginia Tech fans are excited about the young running backs' potential. I know they're two extremely athletic and talented athletes. But none of them have lined up against Alabama's defense yet, and that will be quite a freshman hazing. I would imagine Josh Oglesby will start that game, just for the simple fact he's got some game experience, but Wilson and Williams are going to get their carries this fall, and it's going to have to start sometime. If Virginia Tech is lucky, Frank Beamer and running backs coach Billy Hite will watch a rerun of last year, when Evans emerged as a record-setter at the expense of injured teammate Kenny Lewis Jr.

The whole reason Taylor was named the starting quarterback ahead of Sean Glennon last year was because the Hokies were in a similar situation -- young, inexperienced skill players who needed a little boost in the backfield from Taylor's feet. It's still a young team -- There are only four seniors on the preseason two-deep offensive depth chart, and two of them -- Ed Wang and Sergio Render -- are offensive linemen. The others are tight end Greg Boone and fullback Kenny Jefferson.

The Hokies will still need Taylor's feet. But this year the receivers should have a better understanding of the playbook and Taylor should be able to make better use of his arm.

We all knew that Virginia Tech's passing game was going to have to improve if the Hokies were going to contend for the national title, and that hasn't changed. Virginia Tech still has an opportunity to be a top 10 team, but if the Hokies show up against Alabama without Evans and without a passing game, that opportunity will disappear quickly.