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Now back to the position-by-position looks, which will probably have to come rapidly over the next three weeks to get them all in by the start of spring practice. Today: the tailbacks.
* Seniors: None
* Juniors: Tony Gregory
* Sophomores: Dominique Patterson, Daniel Dyer
* Redshirt freshmen: Michael Holmes, Maurice Taylor
* Incoming freshmen: J.C. Coleman, Drew Harris, Chris Mangus, Trey Edmunds, Jerome Wright
* Current scholarship players (3): Gregory, Patterson, Holmes
* Incoming scholarship players (5): Coleman, Harris, Mangus, Edmunds, Wright
* What to think of the returners: It’s a small group and not an experienced one. Gregory has the most on-field experience, and that’s all of 39 carries for 129 yards. Holmes, who teammates and coaches have had good things to say about this offseason, is probably the frontrunner to replace David Wilson heading into the spring, even though he’s never played in a college game. Nevertheless, Tech has had success plugging such running backs into the system. Darren Evans ran for 1,265 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2008 and Ryan Williams ran for 1,655 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2009. Granted, Holmes wasn’t a highly-touted recruit like those two, but of the returners (and with Gregory out in spring because of a knee injury), he’ll get a good, long look from the coaches in a featured role.
* What to think of the newcomers: There’s a whole bunch of them, for sure. With Wilson’s departure for the NFL a possibility, the Hokies loaded up on running backs in their 2012 class. Coleman is an early enrollee who, given the lack of bodies at the position, will get plenty of reps this spring, a major advantage in getting on the field early next fall. Harris, a bruiser from Pennsylvania, is a highly-touted recruit and figures to be a good complement to the smaller Coleman. Mangus is known for his speed and Wright has been hailed as a sleeper signee. Edmunds has drawn such rave reviews as an all-around football player that Tech is already talking about using him in offensive and defensive packages. All in all, it’s a very strong group.
* What does the future bode? Don’t expect the Hokies to hold the freshmen back. Frank Beamer has learned over the years that it doesn’t pay to keep extremely talented ballcarriers off the field by redshirting. Evans and Williams both had two more years of eligibility in college when they went pro. Wilson, who didn’t redshirt, had one year. It’s a fact of life at the tailback position: featured backs only have so many carries in them, and when an opportunity to go pro presents itself, a lot of them jump at the chance. Given that fact, expect several freshmen to play right away. Coleman, I’d say, is a given. Harris could be another, depending on how he recovers from a knee injury suffered his senior season of high school. Edmunds, just based on talent, seems like he will find his way onto the field in some capacity.
Considering that, the tailback position looks promising for Tech in upcoming seasons, particularly since they’ll be thrown into the fire so early. Given the uncertainty at the position and the sheer number of bodies, it’s unlikely any one back gets as much of the workload as fans have been accustomed to in recent years. I’d imagine the Hokies won’t go after many running backs in the 2013 class, which, given the available scholarships, will be small anyway. Obviously, there’s room for a talented back not afraid of competition. But taking running backs just to take them and add depth to the position won’t be the plan this year.