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2013 Virginia Tech Football: The State Of The Running Backs

In 2012, the Virginia Tech football team suffered through one of its worst years in recent memory, and part of that was their inability to have a productive running game. Quarterback Logan Thomas was the Hokies' leading-rusher with 524 yards, sporting the second-lowest such total under Frank Beamer (Ralph Brown had only 514 yards in 1988). While the Hokies offensive line was far from superb, a big reason for the lack of production was the running back position. We examine below how the position looks now and why Hokie fans should still be cautious when projecting improvement at the position in 2013.


There are so many differences from the running back corps Tech had at the beginning of 2012 and the one they'll sport to open the 2013 season. In 2012, the Hokies opened with Michael Holmes as the starting running back with the explosive J.C. Coleman seeing spot duty. That arrangement, however, quickly morphed, as Holmes' inability to decisively hit the hole and Coleman's struggles as an every-down back forced the coaches' hands into giving Tony Gregory and Martin Scales more of a role. Both of those players also had issues though, as Gregory was oft-injured and was basically only effective on the outside, and Scales ran hard, but was perhaps not on-par athletically with the other backs.

Of course, riding the hot hand back and forth all season long worked about as well as anyone would have expected, which is to say, not well. Not well at all. Each had their moments, but none staked their claim to be THE GUY on a consistent basis. By the end of the season, the Hokies had resorted to using Scales as he was the surest thing at a position with nothing but question marks.

Fast-forward to today, and basically the entire cast of characters has changed. Holmes was kicked out of school in back in July, Joel Caleb was moved to the position at the start of camp, before it was announced that he would miss the first game for violating team rules, Gregory tore his ACL for a FOURTH time and will miss the season and J.C. Coleman sprained both of his ankles last week in practice, putting in doubt his ability to make it back in time for the opener against Alabama. On top of that, one of the Hokies top recruits from 2012 and 2013, Drew Harris, was denied by the NCAA Eligibility Center for the second time over the summer. The only two healthy scholarship options to start the season, Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus, are both redshirt-freshmen and have never been on the field a collegiate snap. So to say the Hokies are in the clear at the position, even with what is likely a more talented unit and one in which the coaches have vowed not to use in the same manner as they did in 2012.

The complications, however, shouldn't just be measured by how the affect the team in Week 1. After all, it is unlikely the Hokies prognosis against Alabama (whatever that may be) would change with one player at the position being substituted for another. And the Hokies did just fine in 2009 against Alabama at running back with Ryan Williams getting his first-ever collegiate reps at the position (minus an ill-conceived foray into punt return). But beyond that game, there are still question marks. Will Edmunds and Coleman be able to strike a balance that will form a productive 1-2 punch? Will one of them become the primary back, or will they split carries 50-50? Will another member of the backfield play a part? These are all legitimate questions, and unfortunately ones without answers. It will have to be another wait-and-see approach from the Tech fan base in 2013.

For continued analysis of the 2013 football team, including complete previews and recaps of each game in the 2013 season, stay with us here at Gobbler Country, your #1 Virginia Tech sports resource.