BLACKSBURG — Freshman running back Keshawn King didn’t want to get a bigger role like this.
King wanted to earn it.
Virginia Tech running back Jalen Holston suffered a serious lower body injury at the end of the first half in the team’s 35-28 loss to Boston College. He had surgery on Monday and will be out indefinitely. Holston went into the season opener listed as the team’s co-starter along Deshawn McClease.
“Obviously I’m hurt about my brother going down and the team’s hurt a lot, our brother going down, but you’ve got to be ready when your name’s called,” King said on Tuesday. “So when your name’s called, you’ve got to know your assignment, you’ve got to know what you’re going to do, so I’m preparing for it, I’m ready for it. And obviously my brother has trained me and showed me the way and the things I need to pick up on to get the job done.”
While King got the first carry by a Tech running back in the game, coach Justin Fuente hoped to bring King along slowly at the start of the season,
That plan didn’t make it until halftime with King carrying the ball 10 times for 33 yards in the opener. He had a team-high six carries in the third quarter including three straight touches on a 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive.
"The line is getting short,” Fuente said of the running back depth.
King didn’t get an opportunity to flash the explosiveness that earned him early playing time. Boston College tackled him at the line of scrimmage three times. King did mix in some modest gains with his longest carry going 9-yards.
“It’s always going to be mistakes and mess-ups and all that,” King said. “But we’ve just got to execute more and just find a way to overcome the bad plays. And we’ve got to just keep pushing. You’re always going to have mess-ups and things like that. You can’t look at it like that. We’ve got to move on to the next play.”
The biggest challenge in the coming weeks for the young running backs will be continuing to learn all the blocking schemes required at the position. King said he watched film “all day, every day, all the time” during fall camp and that’s continued with the season underway.
“There’s something new all the time, so you just have to learn it, you have to know it and then you have to go execute,” King said.
King’s experience on Saturday was also a key part of his education that he hopes will help him in the team’s home opener against Boston College on Saturday.
“Obviously you’ve got to build a relationship with your teammates,” King said. “Once you build a relationship with your teammates and understand how they play and how they go about things, then I feel like you’ll have a better understanding on how they play. And obviously just being aware of things is an instinct. I feel it’s an instinct. You’ve just got to play ball.”