Quickly, before I get into it: two more Hokies will get a shot with NFL teams. Virginia Tech said TE Chris Drager will get a tryout with Tampa Bay and OL Andrew Lanier will do the same with Jacksonville.
That’s not quite the same thing as signing contracts. Five other players already signed undrafted free agent contracts: OL Jaymes Brooks (Green Bay), WR Jarrett Boykin (Jacksonville), S Eddie Whitley (Dallas), OL Blake DeChristopher (Arizona) and CB Cris Hill (Buffalo).
They join the three draftees: RB David Wilson (New York Giants), CB Jayron Hosley (New York Giants), WR Danny Coale (Dallas).
NOW, back to the spring recaps. I did the quarterbacks yesterday. Today, it’s the running backs. Remember, these are my best guess for how the depth charts might look come fall. It’s nothing official:
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART (TAILBACKS)
- Michael Holmes, 5-11, 208, rFr.
- Drew Harris, 6-1, 220, Fr. OR
- J.C. Coleman, 5-8, 176, Fr. OR
- Martin Scales, 5-11, 226, Sr.
- Tony Gregory, 6-0, 179, Jr.
- Daniel Dyer, 5-9, 198, So.
- Byron Becker, 5-11, 209, So.
- Maurice Taylor, 5-8, 169, rFr.
- Trey Edmunds, 6-2, 200, Fr.
- Chris Mangus, 6-0, 180, Fr.
- Jerome Wright, 6-1, 220, Fr.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART (FULLBACKS)
- Joey Phillips, 5-11, 233, Sr.
- Riley Beiro, 5-9, 232, So.
- Greg Gaddell, 5-10, 199, So.
- Griffin Hite, 5-11, 229, rFr.
- Justus Hoffman, 6-1, 261, rFr.
Although they won’t say it, the coaches probably came out of the spring with a pretty good idea of who is the best candidate to be the starting running back. Holmes looked every bit the part, confident in his cuts, quick with his decisions, productive in the scrimmages. Head coach Frank Beamer mentioned him as someone who stood out after every almost scrimmage, something he didn’t do with anyone else. The most encouraging part to Hokies fans is that Holmes wasn’t a one-dimensional guy. He showed some burst, flashed enough speed (he had a 60-yard TD run at one scrimmages) and proved he can be tough around the goal line. Nobody on the roster can say they do all those things.
For Coleman and Scales, the spring was an acclimation process — Coleman to college, Scales to the position. Running backs coach Shane Beamer praised how Coleman handled the learning curve, saying he had only a handful of mental mistakes (a rarity for an early enrollee). Scales is a different kind of runner, a bruiser who can wear defenses down. At fullback, Shane came out of spring pleased enough with Phillips and Beiro that it appears Scales will stay at tailback. Phillips showed off his hands with a few nice catches during practice. Perhaps Tech will get back to using a fullback in a pass-catching role.
Only a fraction of the running backs who will be in the mix in fall even got to participate in the spring. Gregory, the oldest true tailback of the group, missed spring drills with an ACL injury. That the coaches have talked about him learning cornerback as a fail-safe option doesn’t speak highly of his chances of winning the tailback job once he’s back. Harris, Edmunds and Mangus, three guys who could very well be in the mix, still aren’t on campus yet. Coleman appeared to have some production struggles. During one scrimmage in particular, he had 14 carries for 16 yards, with 13 coming on one carry. Blocking no doubt has a lot to do with that, but so does hitting the hole without hesitation, something that should come with time. While Scales provides a punch with his running style, he’s still limited in that sense. He won’t be a nimble, make-you-miss runner, which takes him out of a lot of formations and plays I would guess.
As I mentioned before, Harris, Edmunds and Mangus all will arrive this summer (Wright reportedly will grayshirt). It’s still unclear what position Edmunds will play (linebacker, tailback or both) and Mangus is known more as a speed guy. But Harris, I think, has a chance to compete for playing time. We reporters spoke to him briefly at one practice, and he’s a big guy who says he doesn’t want to limit himself to being a power back. The main question is how his knee holds up after he injured it as a senior in high school last year. He says he’s fine and that it won’t prevent him from competing right away. He also said he doesn’t want to redshirt, and Shane and Co. give the impression that the true freshmen will get their shot come August. If anything, the elder Beamer has learned his lesson about talented freshmen, particularly tailbacks: if they’re good enough, play them right away. You might not have them for all four years anyway, as Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson proved.
Holmes has to be the guy. He looked like a No. 1 guy this spring, entered and exited it as the first running back in the rep line and has had a whole redshirt year to prepare for his role. I don’t think we’ll see any numbers like Evans, Williams or Wilson put up in their first year as a featured back, but I do think Holmes will lead the team in rushing with a respectable total.
BATTLE TO WATCH
It’s not set in stone that Holmes will start, although I think he certainly has a leg up. That would make the most intriguing position battle for the No. 2 spot. Coleman and Scales traded off No. 2 reps in the spring because … well, there was no one else in the mix. But with Harris arriving this summer, they’ll face some competition. Coleman is a quick little back but has work to do with his blocking. Scales is a big guy but is limited with his quickness. Both seem like situational guys at this point. Although I haven’t seen Harris on the field, he sounds like a more complete back than either of the other two. If he’s completely healthy, I think he can win that backup job.
THEY SAID IT
“Those three guys [Holmes, Coleman and Scales], we certainly feel good about them being in the rotation this fall. If it stays that way, great. If one of these incoming guys comes in as a freshman and beats them out, that’s even better for us, because I really like the group we have now.” — Shane Beamer, sizing up his group
0 — Career carries in a college game by Holmes, Coleman and Scales. In fact, the only tailback on the roster with ball-carrying experience is Gregory, who had 39 carries for 129 yards as a freshman and sophomore.
THE END OF THE DAY
This is a big question mark for the Hokies next year, but not the biggest (certainly not as big as the offensive line). Yes, Tech doesn’t have anybody back with any extensive experience, but the Hokies are not without options. Holmes looked like a solid running back who has just not had his chance yet. Coleman appears as though he could be good situationally. Scales could be a goal line option who is tough to bring down (something the team has lacked of late, if you don’t count quarterback Logan Thomas.) And the freshmen, particularly Harris, are an intriguing group that could compete for playing time. The Hokies have never had a problem finding a successor at running back. The experience level might be low this year, but in time, I don’t think Tech will have trouble finding one or two backs from this group to carry the load .