Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
Tech, coming off one of its worst rushing seasons in 20 years, needs a running back to take the reins.
DANIEL LIN | Special to The Roanoke Times
J.C. Coleman led the running backs with 492 yards last year, but his 5-foot-7 frame leaves concerns about the hits he can take.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Trey Edmunds hears the talk. It’s impossible not to.
The running back knows what people have said or written about Virginia Tech’s ground game, which slogged through the 2012 season, struggling close to as much as it has during the Hokies’ 20-year bowl streak.
All he does is internalize it.
“Us individuals who are in the running back room, we all stick together and we all just work hard,” the redshirt freshman said. “So eventually it has to pay off.”
The Hokies certainly hope that is the case. Running the football doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of one group. The offensive line has to block. Receivers too. And a passing game needs to be enough of a threat to keep defenses honest.
But the biggest spotlight always falls squarely on the running backs. And Tech’s didn’t pull their weight last year.
A four-man rotation at tailback didn’t alleviate any problems, putting the onus on quarterback Logan Thomas to lead the way. He rushed 174 times — often as a 250-pound battering ram straight into the line — for a team-high 524 yards, a fact that an embarrassed running backs coach Shane Beamer called “ridiculous” in the spring.
J.C. Coleman led the running backs with 492 yards, the lowest rushing total for the Hokies’ leading back since Terry Smoot in 1967. Tony Gregory (299 yards), Michael Holmes (280) and Martin Scales (187) were equally hit-or-miss.
It led to one of Tech’s worst rushing seasons in the last 20 years. The Hokies’ 145.8 yards per game were the third lowest in that time, ahead of only the teams in 2006 (113.4 ypg) and ’07 (133.6 ypg). Their 3.7-yard average per carry was fourth worst in that time and only the sixth time during that period it dipped below 4 yards.
“I think what you emphasize is what you get,” head coach Frank Beamer said of the running game. “And I don’t think you just fall into running the football. I think you’ve got to have a mentality to do that and a dedication to do that.”
Revitalizing the running game has been a priority for new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who, despite a background as a quarterbacks coach, has had better running games than passing in his two stops as a coordinator at Temple and Auburn.
Much of that has had to do with personnel, which might be his biggest problem this year. Tech’s offensive line issues have been well-documented, but the Hokies also struggled to settle on a featured running back last season largely because their talent level didn’t match that of past years.
Chalk it up to early NFL departures and recruiting attrition. Recent backs Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson all left with eligibility remaining, putting a drain on the team’s experienced ballcarriers , while highly-touted recruit Drew Harris didn’t qualify last year and doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a Hokie .
Whatever the reason, the current stable of backs has plenty to prove. With Holmes dismissed this summer by the school’s student conduct committee, that leaves Coleman, a sophomore, as the only back who got more than 100 carries last year.
Hopes are high that the 6-foot-1, 216-pound Edmunds, a Parade All-American who ran for 2,596 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior at Dan River High in 2011, can be the much-needed power back that Tech would like for its scheme.
Two other options, the senior Gregory and redshirt freshman Chris Mangus, are speed guys, neither weighing more than 190 pounds. Coleman comes in at 191, although his 5-foot-7 frame leaves concerns about his ability to take a consistent pounding between the tackles.
“Edmunds is the thumper. Mangus and Coleman are the scat backs,” Loeffler said in late July. “So we’ve got to play to their strengths.”
There’s also Joel Caleb, a w ildcat-style quarterback in high school who tried his hand at receiver during his redshirt year. He’ll get reps at running back during training camp and, at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, joins Edmunds as the bigger backs on the roster, although he’ll serve a one-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.
The running backs will have to be the ones to get the job done. Loeffler made it clear he won’t open Thomas up to the punishment the quarterback took last year often as the team’s primary ballcarrier.
Shane Beamer would like to have two primary backs to lean on, with others used situationally. How he’ll split carries among the leading backs remains to be seen.
“I think that will all shake itself out however that goes,” Shane said. “But all those guys, they all have a role, a niche. And we just need to figure out what maximizes our ability as an offense.”
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us