Virginia Tech fall camp first practice

Virginia Tech running back Keshawn King goes through drills at practice on Aug. 2, 2019. 

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente is generally tight-lipped throughout the fall about what transpires on the practice field.

The Hokies had their first scrimmage of the fall earlier in the week, but Fuente shared next to no details about it when he spoke to the media on Friday.

“Some good and some bad,” Fuente said.

The most specific he got about the scrimmage was revealing true freshman running back Keshawn King had a “couple nice runs.”

It’s a small detail, but an important one for fans hoping for a more dynamic running game in the fall.

Tech had the 57th ranked rushing offense in FBS last season (174.3 yards per game) and was ranked 67th in yards per carry (4.36). Those numbers are up from 2017, but not where the coaching staff wants them to be.

The coaching staff coveted King for the explosiveness he showed as a three-year starter at Oakleaf High School (Florida). King, who dominated the competition as a senior running for 2,000-plus yards (8.1 yards per carry), hasn’t disappointed in his first week of practice.

“He’s not scared,” Fuente said. “I mean, he pours it up in there and he’s got some elite quickness. He’s been fun to watch so far. We’ve got a lot of work to do with him, but he’s had a good camp so far.”

King has put on five pounds since arriving in Blacksburg — he’s at 5-foot-11, 182 pounds according to Tech’s updated roster — but that’s done nothing to slow him down.

“He’s explosive,” Virginia Tech running back Deshawn McClease said. “That’s no question, he’s an explosive guy.”

“They said I got to play the way I play,” King said, in an interview with The Roanoke Times before early signing day. “Take the workouts and things serious. Learn the playbook and I’ll be ready to go.”

Virginia Tech vaulted to the top of King’s list during his recruitment over the likes of Miami and Ole Miss when Fuente and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen pledged to have an open competition at running back when he arrived in the fall.

That was all King needed to hear.

“I know I work hard, I know I work hard I can get it,” King said. “I always told myself to be the best at what you do.”

While King is confident in his abilities, he’s turned heads for his humble in approach through the first six practices.

“He’s still going out there and working with his head down,” McClease said. “He’s not overly confident. He’s not too cocky. I think he’s right where you want him to be at — every day he goes out there and gets better at something. He has a bright future.”

It’s something on display as he works to learn the finer points of the position as well. 

“Being an every down back and running the ball occasionally are two different things,” Fuente said. “But what I have seen is he’s a willing blocker. He is. He’s not scared to run up there and throw what weight he does have around.”

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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