Maybe this will be the year Virginia Tech finds somebody to replace 2012 first-round NFL draft pick David Wilson at running back.
Last year, the Hokies tried to compensate for the loss of their 2011 leading rusher, but the by-committee approach wasn’t productive enough, and none of the young backs truly separated themselves. Virginia Tech, usually one of the most consistent rushing teams in the ACC, ranked No. 79 in the country in rushing offense at 145.85 yards per game. That’s the worst finish in their ground game since the Hokies ranked No. 82 in the country in 2007.
It didn’t help that the offensive line was a weak link, but there will be a focus on the running backs this spring as the Hokies try to get their running game back to where it used to be during the days of Wilson, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.
"If we run the ball better, I think it makes your throws easier," coach Frank Beamer said, "and that's the main focus here."
The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from, but Beamer will be looking for one or two to emerge as the go-to players, starting this spring.
“A couple of guys are going to get the majority of carries and then you have another guy you feel comfortable with,” Beamer said. “I think getting that list down and looking if there’s a need somewhere else, and a guy is not going to figure in at tailback, maybe we make some moves in that regards. Those are things that, as we get into spring practice, we’ll see. But all of the running backs we’ve got there, we sure want to give them an opportunity and see who comes out on top.”
Here’s a look at the position heading into the spring:
J.C. Coleman: He played in every game last season and had six starts. He was second on the team in carries (109) and rushing yards (492) and scored two touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Michael Holmes: He started five games and played in 11 last season. He carried the ball 70 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns.
Tony Gregory: The redshirt senior is the veteran of the group, but he only started two games last season. He had 64 carries for 311 yards and a touchdown in 2012.
CAN MAKE THEIR MARK
Trey Edmunds: He’s a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a collegiate snap. As a recruit, Edmunds was ranked the No. 68 “athlete” in the country, the No. 83 player in his region and the No. 17 player in the state by ESPN's RecruitingNation.
Chris Mangus: He also redshirted last season and has no collegiate game experience. As a high school senior in Raleigh, N.C., Mangus rushed for 1,658 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he averaged 150.7 rushing yards a game.