Little Vick stepping out of big brother's shadow

October 21, 2005|By RICK MAESE

College Park -- Big bro 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 or Robbie Spain don't seem too fair.

For now, just Marcus will have to do. He's only started seven games at quarterback for Virginia Tech, but it's already safe to say we"ll be hearing his name for a long time.

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

A couple of years ago, the notion would"ve seemed absurd, like proposing that Einstein's younger brother would come along and propose a theory of super relativity, as though E might suddenly equal MC cubed.

Last night, in one of the undefeated Hokies" biggest challenges of the season, we saw that Marcus isn't yet Michael. But the potential is there.

Marcus posted a career high in rushing (133 yards) and was just short of a career high in passing (211 yards), leading No. 3 Virginia Tech over Maryland, 28-9.

It's a pressure Marcus has carried his entire life. The national prognosticators are singing a new tune this fall, 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.

Last night we certainly got a glimpse. If Michael gets credit for redefining the quarterback position, Marcus might someday get credit for perfecting it.

But he's not there yet. The younger Vick sometimes throws off-balance and unnecessarily from his back foot. He also threw three interceptions against the Terps and failed to convert a couple of key red-zone opportunities.

Marcus will likely go his entire college career drawing comparisons to his brother. It should be a relief for opposing quarterbacks.

If Marcus had peers, we could make a comparison, but he's a different type of player. Last night, Terps quarterback Sam Hollenbach had respectable stats 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 Hollebach 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 last night's three interceptions, Marcus is a better passer than Michael, entering the matchup against the Terps ranked No. 2 in the country in passing efficiency.

On the Hokie's first scoring drive early in the second quarter, Vick started with a quick 18-yard pass. Then he rushed for 43 yards on four carries, including a looping 8-yard scramble into the end zone.

By the end of the first half, Vick was 9-of-13 for 150 yards passing and had 49 rushing yards on 10 carries. And he was doing it against an inspired Terps defense, whose early effort last night was unlike any we"d seen this season. Maryland was making key stops at key times, stopping Virginia Tech on two of three times in the red zone in the first half alone.

Despite Vick's performance, the Terps went into the locker room is good position. Do you remember the halftime of last year's game?

Ralph Friedgen cursed on national television and the team went on to get blown away by the Hokies. Carrying a four-point deficit into the third quarter this year was a pretty good accomplishment against the ACC's top team.

But then, in the opening drive of the second half, 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 shoot 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. I'm no defensive coordinator, but I've dissected his running into three parts: the part where he blasts through the line, the part where he zips past the linebackers and the part where he flies through the secondary.

What can you do? His body twists like a Rubik's Cube.

Vick will get exponentially better. He"ll make smarter decisions and fewer mistakes. He won't make you forget his brother, but he"ll likely give you something else to remember.

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