– With Trey Edmunds out for the next few months with a broken leg, J.C. Coleman will be Virginia Tech’s starting running back in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. After that, everything’s kind of up in the air.
Running backs coach Shane Beamer said Wednesday the Hokies could use Joel Caleb, Chris Mangus or even fullback Jerome Wright as tailbacks against UCLA on Dec. 31.
“J.C. can’t play the whole game,” Beamer said. “If J.C. is the guy, you’ve got to spell him with some people. And then you certainly need some size in there from a pass protection standpoint as well.”
Edmunds led the team with 675 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns before breaking his leg in the fourth quarter of the regular season finale against Virginia. He had surgery and will need close to five months of rehabilitation time.
Of the running backs, Coleman, a sophomore, had the next-most yards with 262, although it took him half the season to truly get healthy from a pair of sprained ankles suffered in the preseason. Coleman got a decent workload in two of the last three games, getting 22 carries for 68 yards at Miami and 14 carries for 57 yards against Virginia.
Caleb, a redshirt freshman who ran eight times for 41 yards this year, is a potential between-the-tackles replacement for Edmunds, although he’s still dealing with a quad injury suffered against Maryland. Mangus, another redshirt freshman who is shifty, has only 20 carries for 115 yards this season.
Wright, a 6-foot-2, 221-pound freshman fullback who spent last year at Fork Union, could join the tailback mix, having practiced at both positions during the season.
“He’s light on his feet, he’s athletic and he has size,” Beamer said. He’s got a knack for running the ball. He’s kind of smooth … for a big guy.”
– The Hokies are using much of their practice time to prepare for UCLA, but they also treat it as an opportunity to see what some of the younger guys on the team are up to, especially some of those who might have been on the scout team all year and away from their usual position coaches.
“No question our priority is winning a bowl game, but you want to see how those young guys come along as well,” Beamer said. “Last year, Trey and Chris Mangus were on the scout team all year and came over for bowl practice, and it was obvious how much they’ve improved since bowl practice.
“That’s our thinking: win the bowl game but pick your spots in practice.”
– Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said he was hopeful injured cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum would be able to play in the Sun Bowl.
Gray said Fuller, who had core muscle surgery on Nov. 19, surprised him by “moving around pretty good” at last Saturday’s practice in a limited role.
“He didn’t do a lot, but what he did, he looked good,” Gray said. “I’m anticipating with the amount of time before we play UCLA that if he feels good about i, that he’s going to play.”
Gray said Exum is about 60 percent after suffering an ankle injury late in the year but, given another week and a half, could be back for the game.
Fuller and Exum have played two snaps together this year. Gray would love to have those two and freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson at his disposal for once.
“I’m hopeful, just because those guys are seniors and we haven’t been able to get them out there at the same time,” Gray said. “And I’m hopeful, because [UCLA] is a four-wideout team and it’d be great to have those guys out there.”
Gray said if they’re not completely healthy, it wouldn’t be wise for them to be out there, especially with their professional future coming into play soon.
“I always tell those guys don’t put yourself on film if you’re not 100 percent healthy,” Gray said. “So you’ve got to be smart about it. You’ve got to fight the urge of wanting to play if you’re not totally healthy, because you’re not helping the team, you’re not helping your future, you’re not helping any of the above.”
– Gray said he’ll give his honest thoughts to junior safety Kyshoen Jarrett about whether or not he’s ready to go pro, although from the sounds of it, Jarrett submitting paperwork to the NFL draft advisory committee is more of a fact-finding mission than anything.
“I think he just wants the information,” Gray said.
What can Jarrett improve on in his senior season if he comes back?
“I thought he got better this year from a coverage standpoint,” Gray said. “Still see him get better from a coverage and having -confidence-in-his-coverage standpoint. So being more consistent playing the ball. He had two interceptions this year, which is better than the year before. Just taking more opportunities to be able to make plays on the ball.”
– Recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring said he didn’t hesitate for a second when deciding to stick with Virginia Tech’s staff last year after having his offensive coordinator title removed, even though working for new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler could have been awkward.
“Is there some trepidation? Yeah. Anything new,” Stinespring said. “But it quickly evaporated. … When you have a group of people who have mutual respect for each other and a common goal, then everything else is workable. It’s worked out exceptionally well.”
Stinespring worked from the booth this year next to Loeffler, working in a capacity all assistants do to the coordinator — watching a particular aspect of the game and providing insight as to what he saw. Everything went smoothly.
“Our relationship was terrific,” Stinespring said. “And I think it quickly developed into a mutual respect, and once you have that component — we both respected each other, we both respected each other’s knowledge of the game — and that was quickly developed, I thought he was outstanding the way he approached it.”
– Quick note about the blog: we’re supposed to do our switch to the new site this afternoon, but I’ll continue to post here for the time being until the inevitable bugs get worked out.