Practice report: Hokies running back David Wilson mum on NFL future, will announce his decision after Sugar Bowl
Virginia Tech running back David Wilson said he still hasn’t made a decision about his NFL future, and he won’t be letting anyone know until after the Hokies play Michigan in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday.
Wilson, a projected first-round pick by some draft gurus, also said he hasn’t gotten feedback yet from the NFL draft advisory committee, which he sent paperwork to several weeks back.
In the meantime, the junior has gotten advice from a number of people, including former Virginia Tech standout and first-round NFL pick Kevin Jones, who is back in Blacksburg getting his degree.
Wilson said his teammates bring it up in a joking manner.
“They don’t try to persuade me either way,” he said.
“I don’t really say anything to him, because he has enough pressure as it is,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “I know how it feels to have that pressure on himself. I don’t really say much to him. I’d love to have him back of course, because it makes my job easy. I definitely wish he would come back, but if he were to go, I wouldn’t blame him whatsoever.
Wilson said his focus in on the Sugar Bowl and bouncing back from the ACC championship game debacle against Clemson. Wilson, the ACC’s leading rusher, had 11 carries for 32 yards, season lows on both fronts.
What’d the Tigers do to slow him down?
“I really don’t know,” Wilson said. “Whatever they did, they did it well. … It seemed like there was an extra guy everywhere I went.”
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said the Hokies will make a concerted effort to get him the ball Tuesday against Michigan.
“Obviously when you have someone like David, you want to get the ball in his hands,” Stinespring said. “We didn’t do a very good job early in the [Clemson] game of doing it. … We probably needed to force the ball into his hands a couple more times early on, regardless of the situation. We just needed to do a better job of getting him involved.”
Wilson, whose 1,627 rushing yards are 29 shy of breaking Ryan Williams‘ single-season school record, said he still hasn’t shown everything he can do on the field this year.
“I think I’ve left off a lot,’” he said. “I think I’m playing just as good I did my junior year of high school. Then my senior year of high school, I was just dominating almost every defense I went against. Getting three and four touchdowns a game and six carries, 160 yards.”
Is it frustrating that he can’t do that in college?
“I can,” he said. “I just haven’t.”
- I’ll have more on Wilson in a feature story I’ve got running in Monday’s paper. Here’s one more quote from him today: “I don’t know if it’s the turf or the long break we had, my body getting back to 100 percent, but I definitely feel faster this week and a lot stronger and more powerful.”
- OK, one more Wilson quote about the game: “The media says that one team shouldn’t be here. So making a statement and coming out and winning this game, that’d be powerful.”
- The battle up front will be key in the game. That’s actually what I’m writing about for Sunday’s paper. Michigan’s defensive line is a strength, and it plays as physical as anyone Virginia Tech will face this year. “I really don’t think any offensive line can stand up to our physicality,” Wolverines defensive end Craig Roh said. “If our d-line plays the way we know how to play, I don’t think anyone in the country can.”
- Roh, who is 6-foot-5, 269 pounds, on what it’s like going up against a 6-foot-6, 254-pound quarterback like Thomas: “There’s just more to hit. So I guess you just hit it harder.”
- Most of the teams Virginia Tech has played this year are speed teams on the line. Michigan is a change of pace. “They want to get inside your chest and try to push you back,” Hokies right tackle Blake DeChristopher said. “So we’ve been practicing that this week a lot in pass [protection]. It’s going to be a good challenge, but it should be fun.”
- Thomas said he made one trip to Bourbon Street. “It’s definitely wild,” he said. “It’s definitely how they described it, I guess.” He said he didn’t wear any Virginia Tech gear because he was trying to fit in. Good luck with that.
- ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has said in the past that Thomas is a future top-10 NFL draft pick. That could be next year as competition for USC’s Matt Barkley. “I didn’t see it, but people told me what he said,” Thomas said. “I just kind of chuckled, because I think I’m a long way off to where I need to be. I’ve got a lot of work to put in between now and next year is what they’re projecting. But I’m extremely excited about it, extremely blessed about it, but that means I have to work that much harder. It’s a good thing it happened, but that means I have to step my game up.”
- Receiver Danny Coale said he’s preparing as though he’ll be the team’s punter Tuesday. He’s on the punt block team too, so he alternates reps on the different units during practice. “It’s high school all over again for me,” he said. “It’s just fun, flying around, kind of doing those dual roles.”
- As for field goals, the former high school kicker said he’s not in the mix, although just fooling around in practice he kicked an extra point, missed a 30-yarder and made a 30-yarder. ” It’s not something that I’m focusing on right now,” he said.
- Stinespring recalled the ’95 Sugar Bowl win against Texas and what head coach Frank Beamer said afterward. “We’re going to be back and we’re going to be better,” Stinspring said. “And I was in the back thinking, ‘Whoa, slow down little fella, enjoy the moment here. You’re a little giddy, I understand.’ And he was right. We were back here. We were able to play for the national championship in a terrific ballgame. And then we were able to come back again and play Auburn, undefeated Auburn team, and go face mask to face mask with them for four quarters. And now we’re back again and we’re facing a Michigan ball club that is the winningest ball team in all of college football. And since 1995 we’re the winningest football team in college football in Division I-A. So like I said it really means a great deal to us to be here, it’s special to be here, and because as I had said, I think the footprints of where we are in college football are stamped within the city of New Orleans and this Bowl.”
UPDATE, 6:00 p.m.: A few more notes and quotes from Virginia Tech’s practice at the Superdome.
- Beamer still anticipates Justin Myer being his place-kicker, but he hasn’t come out and said Myer is the starter yet.
- Wide receiver D.J. Coles (ankle) and cornerback Cris Hill (knee) were both back in normal jerseys during Saturday’s practice after wearing blue, limited-contact ones Friday. Linebacker Nick Dew (ankle) was in blue Saturday.
- Stanford handled Virginia Tech in last year’s Orange Bowl, especially on defense, sacking Tyrod Taylor eight times. Vic Fangio was the Cardinal’s defensive coordinator last year. He was a defensive assistant for current Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison in 2008 and ’09 on the Baltimore Ravens’ staff. “I think there will be some similarities,” Hokies offensive line coach Curt Newsome said.
- My story tomorrow, as mentioned before, is on the Hokies’ offensive line matchup up with Michigan’s defensive front. To get used to the physical play, Virginia Tech had some extra physical work in a practice earlier this week. “I don’t know if they were real excited about it,” Newsome said, “but we knew that we needed to get some extra work for these guys.”
- Count running backs coach Shane Beamer as someone excited to see how fast Wilson is on the Superdome turf. The Hokies have had only two games on artificial turf this year. “At Wake we played on this surface, and he had a big night that night as well,” the younger Beamer said. “So I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got great team speed and the more we can get the ball to our guys and out on the surface all around the field, the better off we’ll be. But David is one who has been practicing fast this week, and hopefully he’ll be fast in the game.”
- One quick bit of color: Shane got the team worked up by fielding a kickoff at the end of one drill. He darted up the field as Tech’s players hooted and hollered at him from the sideline. He finished the run with a stutter-step juke of Wilson after running down the field about 30 yards.
- Virginia Tech moves to the Saints’ practice facility in nearby Metairie, La. The Saints play at home against the Panthers on Sunday, so the Superdome is unavailable.
- Another reminder: I’m doing a LIVE Virginia Tech chat Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. If you can’t make it but would like to ask a question, post something in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.