David Wilson? Gone. Josh Oglesby? Gone. Tony Gregory? Injured and probably not a running back anymore. What does this mean? Assistant coach Shane Beamer is looking at three brand new tailbacks to work with this fall. What does that mean? We have absolutely no idea what it will look. Let's try to figure it out.
1. Leader in the Clubhouse
Fresh off an impressive year on the scout team, redshirt freshman Michael Holmes entered the spring as the early favorite to win the starting job. While he didn't wow anyone in his first spring like Ryan Williams or Wilson did, Holmes was solid, and maintained his hold on the top spot.
Because of that, it is expected he will be the primary ball carrier from the tailback position when the Hokies take the field September 3.
2. Looking for Carries
True freshman J.C. Coleman played about as well as you could expect in the spring for someone who should have been packing for beach week. He sometimes got tangled up at the line of scrimmage thinking too much, while other times he showed serious glimpses of the burst and vision that made him such a highly recruited prospect. He enters fall camp as the number two behind Holmes and the most likely to split time with him.
However, Martin Scales had a very intriguing spring and was the second best back production wise all spring. He is simply a load to bring down, no matter where he is on the field. Whether or not he can continue that strong play, carve out some carries, and hold off the potential of young J.C. remains to be seen.
Two other true freshmen will enter the fold in August once Chris Mangus and Trey Edmunds get started in practice. Mangus is an explosive back with the prototypical running back size when compared to the diminutive Coleman or the big, tall, physical Edmunds. Mangus is definitely my sleeper pick on offense entering the fall, as his film is very intriguing and just oozes of big play potential. Edmunds will start August on offense, but if Shane finds his top three, he's going to play for defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
3. Logan's Impact
Though this article is about the entire Virginia Tech ground game, we have to bring in the running ability of quarterback Logan Thomas.
Thomas ran for 469 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and was particularly deadly on quarterback sneaks and read options out of the shotgun. He won't be surprising anyone this year though and he certainly doesn't have someone as feared as Wilson to fake handoffs to, so it will be interesting to see how defenses defend him on the ground.
The Hokies installed a little bit of the pistol formation this spring to take advantage of Holmes' more downhill running style and that could be the adjustment Thomas needed to keep the read option a lethal weapon within the offense.
4. Splitting the Carries
In 2011, Wilson was hands-down the top tailback and received 70.9% of the carries given to running backs over the course of the season. The season prior to that, the Hokies had three legitimate tailbacks (Darren Evans, Williams and Wilson) and the leading carrier was Evans at just over 37% of the carries.
However, that was under the guidance of former running backs coach Billy Hite. Under Shane Beamer, I don't think the rotation will be as strict or well defined, and the leading carrier (Holmes) will get somewhere around 55% of the carries given to tailbacks.
As for Coleman, it's extremely difficult to predict his numbers as he could very well end up third on the depth chart behind Scales, and then he would be in Tony Gregory land. Regardless, this season's top backup is going to get more carries than Josh Oglesby did last year and this season's third stringer is likely to get more than Gregory did. That is of course unless Holmes absolutely breaks out and is a flat-out stud right off the bat.
Thomas received about one-fourth of all carries last season and if there's one thing you don't do, it's reduce the amount of plays your top playmaker is involved in. I think that number stays the same.
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