Last night something that many Hokie fans had been anticipating throughout the day was finally announced by ESPN's Joe Schad. That something: that the Hokies would be without their starting or co-starting running back J.C. Coleman in Atlanta today.
VT RB J.C. Coleman (sprained ankles) did not travel to Atlanta and will not play vs Alabama— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) August 31, 2013
Coleman tweeted from class (presumably) earlier in the day, at a time which he probably should have been on his way to Atlanta, which made many wonder if he was in fact making the trip.
In class getting killed about how we're guaranteed to lose this game tomorrow! By the professor and students. SMH!!!— ⚡J.C. Coleman⚡ (@jc_coleman4) August 30, 2013
Sadly, as he did not make the trip, the Hokies will be without one of their foremost playmakers at a much needed position: running back. Coleman flashed his skills last year while splitting time with three other backs, all three either gone or injured now.
Coleman was listed on Thursday's injury report as questionable (or 50% to play based on what that term is supposed to indicate), but there was a strong belief, both by what he and others around the program said or had hinted at that he would be back for the season-opener against Alabama.
Coleman sprained both ankles, one of them a high sprain, in a drill back in an August 14th practice and had not practiced, or did so in a blue jersey (or limited contact) since. Coleman led the running back corps last year with 492 yards on 109 carries (4.5 avg.) and 2 TD's and 21 receptions for 132 yards (6.3 avg.) and a touchdown. He also had 19 kickoff returns for 410 yards, an average of 21.6 yards per return.
The issue with not having Coleman, aside from the obvious ones, is that the Hokies now sport a backfield which has two backs who have never seen a collegiate down. It is likely that that will change tonight, as both Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are likely to get time. But further to that point, without Coleman, the Hokies have lost their top four running backs from a year ago in Coleman (injury), Michael Holmes (dismissal), Tony Gregory (injury) and Martin Scales (graduation). And with the recent one-game suspension of Joel Caleb, who moved from wide receiver to the position, the Hokies will be without all but one of their top backs going back to spring and the end of last season.
How the Hokies will cope with these losses will probably have a great deal to do with how this one goes. Expect to potentially see more designed runs and read option looks for Logan Thomas as a result to try and lessen the load on the young running backs.
For more coverage of Virginia Tech football throughout the day and the season ahead, Gobbler Country will have you covered.