Virginia Tech’s spring practice is fast approaching, with drills beginning March 27. To prepare you for what should be a highly-anticipated spring session, I’ll be breaking down the Hokies by position groups over the next week and a half.
I did the quarterbacks yesterday. Today, it’s the running backs.
The 2012 numbers
– J.C. Coleman: 109 carries, 492 yards, 4.5 avg., 2 TD, 21 catches, 132 yards, 1 TD
– Tony Gregory: 64 carries, 299 yards, 4.7 avg., 1 TD, 7 catches, 60 yards
– Michael Holmes: 70 carries, 280 yards, 4.0 avg., 4 TD, 5 catches, 23 yards
– Martin Scales: 52 carries, 203 yards, 3.6 avg., 2 TD, 3 catches, 9 yards
– Daniel Dyer: 1 carry, 1 yard, 1.0 avg.
– Joey Phillips: 5 catches, 18 yards
– Riley Beiro: 1 catch, 3 yards
– Joey Phillips
– Tony Gregory, 4-Sr.
– Daniel Dyer, Jr. (walk-on)
– Michael Holmes, r-So.
– Maurice Taylor, r-So. (walk-on)
– J.C. Coleman, So.
– Trey Edmunds, r-Fr.
– Chris Mangus, r-Fr.
– Jerome Wright, Fr.
– Riley Beiro, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Greg Gadell, r-Jr. (walk-on)
– Griffin Hite, r-So. (walk-on)
– D.J. Reid, Fr.
– Drew Harris, Fr. (maybe)
After a season in which nobody seized the starting job, can the Hokies find an every-down back capable of being the physical, smashmouth runner that they’ve grown accustomed to in Blacksburg?
The star attraction
He’s yet to play a game, but Edmunds has all sorts of intrigue around him. The Hokies gave him an extended audition last fall, not finalizing his redshirt decision until a few weeks into the season. Even then, it seems they weren’t completely sold on the idea of keeping the talented youngster off the field in his first year. Frank Beamer threw out a Kevin Jones comparison after one scrimmage, during which the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Edmunds gave the fans in attendance a glimpse at his talent with some hard-nosed runs. But he also had some fumbling issues, which probably contributed to the redshirt decision. A strong offseason conditioning program in which he matched J.C. Coleman with a 4.37-second 40 (in Hokie time, which is always inflated) reinforced the excitement surrounding the redshirt freshman heading into the spring. All eyes will certainly be on Edmunds in spring drills.
It starts at the top. Nobody established himself last year as The Guy. Holmes struggled, then was hit by nagging injuries. Gregory had his moments but was also bit by the injury bug. Coleman is the most tantalizing of the backs and led the group in rushing and dynamic plays last year, but there will always have questions about his size, at least in terms of being a 20-25-carry back. With Scales gone, the Hokies lack that true bruising back, one that you figure is going to be a big part of the offense based on everything the new coaches said upon their arrival in January. Running backs coach Shane Beamer had a hard time whittling down reps, both in practice and games last year. He’d probably like to have a more strict rotation of backs this year, provided any of them step up to show they can handle the role.
The new guys
Wright signed last year but delayed his enrollment until this winter, spending a semester at Fork Union. At 5-foot-11, 223 pounds, he’s the biggest of the tailbacks currently on the roster (at least based on the currently listed weights). Reid, from Thomas Dale High, was the only high school back to sign in February. That’s because Harris’ saga with the NCAA Clearinghouse continues. It remains unclear if the four-star recruit will be able to sign with Virginia Tech and enroll in May, when the first summer school session begins. At this point, with how unpredictable the clearinghouse process is, the Hokies can’t count on it. If he does get in, he’d be another big-bodied back to add to the mix. Even if that happens, he won’t have the benefit of spring drills to accelerate his game.
The wild card
Remember when Holmes was the presumed frontrunner for the running back job? It wasn’t that long ago that Frank Beamer was saying Holmes reminded him a lot of Logan Thomas heading into the 2011 season — someone who had the skills to succeed but had just never had the opportunity. Well, things didn’t go as planned. Holmes never got more than 13 carries in a game and never ran for more than 60 yards in a contest. A late-season injury made him an afterthought down the stretch. Holmes played in two of the final four games, getting just one carry in the bowl game for negative-2 yards. Perhaps a new season and a fresh outlook will do him good.
Thomas led the team in rushing with 524 yards, the first time a quarterback has done so since Bobby Owens in 1965. Coleman’s 492 yards led the running backs. That’s the lowest rushing total for a lead running back since Terry Smoot led the Hokies with 356 yards in 1967.