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After the Hokies' running backs put in a tepid performance last year, the coaches say the starting lineup isn't clear.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
J.C. Coleman was the leading running back for Virginia Tech last year, but his 492 total yards was the lowest for a lead running back since 1967. Coleman also produced the Hokies’ only 100-yard game last year, against Duke
MATT GENTRY| The Roanoke Times
Trey Edmunds, a redshirt freshman tailback from Danville, has been compared to Kevin Jones by Hokies head coach Frank Beamer.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Michael Holmes has returned this spring playing more consistently and with more confidence, coaches say.
Friday, April 19, 2013
BLACKSBURG - Trey Edmunds took the handoff on a wide zone play to the outside, but he saw a clear hole appear, put his foot in the ground and cut upfield, breaking away for a 50-yard touchdown in Virginia Tech's scrimmage Wednesday, his first long run of the spring.
The Hokies only hope that their running back picture becomes as clear in the upcoming months.
Today's spring game at Lane Stadium (3 p.m., ESPN3.com) is the final time Virginia Tech's coaches will be able to see their running backs in action - in a game-like situation no less - until the team reconvenes for practice come August.
While the Hokies' coaches guarantee they'll have a firm pecking order established at the spot by the time they play Alabama in Atlanta on Aug. 31 in the season opener, it's becoming increasingly likely that the depth chart - one that will almost certainly be topped by sophomores J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes or the redshirt freshman Edmunds - won't be settled by the end of spring drills.
"We have impressions," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "Those impressions will not come out publicly, anything like that, until it's time. We're going to let these kids compete and walk into training camp and it will be determined very quickly."
"If we came out of the spring and said, 'Hey, I feel like we've got three starting running backs,' I've got no problems with that right now," running backs coach Shane Beamer said.
Forgive Virginia Tech fans for cringing at that last statement, which is a similar refrain to last year, when a four-tailback rotation of Coleman, Holmes, Tony Gregory and Martin Scales produced one of the most anemic rushing attacks in school history.
Coleman led the group with 492 yards, the fewest rushing yards by a lead Virginia Tech tailback since Terry Smoot's 356 yards in 1967. Quarterback Logan Thomas actually led the team with 524 rushing yards, something Beamer called "ridiculous."
The issue is who to elevate to the No. 1 spot. Coleman began the spring in the spot, although that was more a formality than anything, given how he finished last year.
The diminutive back showed big-play capability last year, finishing with 183 yards and two long touchdown runs against Duke, Tech's only 100-yard game by a tailback all year. But his generously-listed 5-foot-8, 177-pound frame makes it difficult to imagine him being the workhorse back the Hokies envision.
Edmunds (6-1, 215) and Holmes (6-0, 215) seems like they fit the mold more, particularly for a group that will still have to run behind an offensive line with plenty of question marks.
Fans have been eager to see Edmunds in action ever since some tantalizing runs he reeled off in preseason practices last August and Frank Beamer's casual running-style comparison to Kevin Jones.
"I think he's had a good spring," the elder Beamer said. "Several times, he's put the foot in the ground and gone. He's a guy that can do that. He's got power."
Then there's Holmes, who entered his redshirt freshman season last year as the top back but fell short of expectations, making him fall off many peoples' radar. He's got a renewed outlook this spring (and newly dyed orange hair), five pounds heavier and fully healed from the thigh bruise that limited him down the stretch.
Loeffler said Holmes has been as consistent as any player this spring.
"If he keeps playing like that, maybe I'll have orange hair," Loeffler joked.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence," Shane Beamer said. "I think he's running more physical. We kid him, he's kind of got his swag back, to use that lingo."
Just who will emerge as the featured back is anybody's guess. Despite what the coaches have said, Edmunds wouldn't rule out the group splitting the load again.
"But I just think it might be better results," he said.
All three - even Coleman, whose status was in doubt with an ankle injury - will play and get their chance to work with the first team today, something fans look at as a show but coaches primarily view as merely another evaluation tool.
At the very least, Shane Beamer knows what he's looking for.
"It's the whole package," he said. "We're doing a lot formation-wise, so they have a lot on their plate - where they're lining up, protections. Whoever can do the whole package most consistently is the one who's going to be able to play."
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