Little Vick avoiding big brother's shadow

October 21, 2005|By RICK MAESE

College Park -- He didn't grin and didn't seem to be exaggerating. With a straight face, Marcus Vick called his performance "horrible."

This quizzical assessment came just minutes after the Virginia Tech quarterback ran for a career-high 133 yards in the Hokies' 28-9 win over Maryland last night. He also threw for 211 yards - just 12 shy of another personal best.

It just goes to show you that one man's horrible is another's Heisman.

Even though Vick will choose to dwell on the three interceptions - which were glaring but had zero effect on the final outcome - he is on a new playing stage now.

His older brother is called Superman. Michael Vick isn't just a football player - he's an Experience.

I don't know what you call Marcus Vick right now, but Michael's Little Brother will no longer suffice. And Marky Mexico doesn't seem fair.

For now, just Marcus will have to do. He's only started seven games at quarterback for Virginia Tech, but Marcus is a name that will echo.

Some in the national media have already decided that the younger Vick is better than his older brother. Michael, you might recall, lines up at quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

Last night, we saw that Marcus isn't yet Michael. But the potential is there. The prognosticators are already singing a new tune, suggesting Michael might have been merely an appetizer.

We watch Marcus with a reserved amazement. We see the flashes of brilliance, but they're still clouded by his inexperience.

Michael vs. Marcus - it's somewhat of a silly argument because we're weighing potential against potential. We haven't even seen the best of Michael yet.

But the younger brother is more of an unknown quantity, and his future has fewer boundaries.

If Michael gets credit for redefining the quarterback position, Marcus might someday get credit for perfecting it.

He's not there yet. The younger Vick sometimes throws off-balance and unnecessarily from his back foot. He failed to convert a couple of red-zone opportunities last night and those three third-quarter interceptions more than doubled his season total.

Marcus will likely go his entire college career playing against his brother's reputation. It should be a relief for opposing quarterbacks.

"What you got is a dynamic quarterback who's got the ability to beat you running and ability to beat you throwing," said Hokies' coach Frank Beamer.

If Marcus had peers, we could make a comparison, but he's a different type of player. Last night Terps quarterback Sam Hollenbach posted respectable numbers and kept his team within striking distance for three quarters. But Vick has that quality that makes him the focal point of every single play.

Vick is a living, breathing, scrambling action verb. As for Hollenbach ... well, it seems like you have to pay a toll and make a half-dozen turns just to say his name.

Vick is a dual threat with multiple tools. While his brother thinks run and then pass, Marcus doesn't have to favor one over the other. Despite the three interceptions, Marcus is a better passer than Michael, starting the week ranked No. 2 in the country in passing efficiency.

Last night, the Terps kept it close through two quarters. Then, on the opening drive of the third quarter, Vick erased lingering doubts and Terps fans' hopes. He scampered 38 yards on one run, putting the Hokies in Maryland territory and setting up a touchdown a few plays later.

It has something to do with his eyes. A lot of runners live for a single hole. They'll approach the line of scrimmage, find their seam and poke through.

Vick moves effortlessly from hole to hole, as though he's chasing dominoes down a winding street. He is constantly running downhill with a GPS system in his helmet guiding him along the way.

It'd be nice to just assign a roving linebacker or safety to focus on Vick, but it's not that simple. What can you do? He responds to pressure. His body twists like a Rubik's Cube.

"We got him flustered tonight, then he flustered all the way down the field on us," said Terps cornerback Josh Wilson.

After the win, Vick again found the right holes, this time cutting through the thicket of fans outside the Virginia Tech locker room. A kid asked for an autograph. A man said he used to fish with Vick's uncle.

You don't need to compare him to other quarterbacks or even to his brother. It's early, yes, but Vick can be the type of player who can only be compared to himself.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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