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Virginia Tech Football: Young Hokie Running Backs Shine Versus William & Mary

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Coming off a 2013 football season where the running game was inconsistent as ever, the Virginia Tech running game seems to be back in tip top shape for now in 2014. But why so many running backs in the rotation and not a single every down back? Let the speculation commence.

Michael Shroyer

The Virginia Tech running game in 2013 gave everyone headaches week in and week out. It was inconsistent and relied on quarterback Logan Thomas frequently as he led the Hokies in rushing in a handful of games. Don't forget that he was second in total rushing for the season behind running back Trey Edmunds. To me this resulted in his fatigue over the course of some games and contributed to his inconsistent quarterback play. But that's a completely different story. Not to mention the offensive line play was almost abysmal in execution for all of 2013.

Yes, the Hokies did play William & Mary, a game which they were expected to win and win easily. Tech did just that. As a team the Hokies ran the ball 42 times, racked up 222 yards on the ground, averaged 5.3 yards per carry, scored two touchdowns, and didn't lose a single yard rushing the ball.

Although, J.C. Coleman started the game at running back, freshman Shai McKenzie led all rushers with 106 yards on just nine carries and had an impressive 39-yard touchdown run. He averaged 11.8 yards per carry.


Tech ran plays out of the Pistol formation a lot in this game. On this play, Shai McKenzie keeps running downhill, maintains his balance, and runs right through the hole the offensive line creates for him. Fullback Sam Rogers leads the way with a nice block down field and the wide receivers hold their blocks long enough for him to squeak by. That is how a great run play is executed. McKenzie seems to be a very balanced running back with good strength and quickness. He definitely made his case for the starting position on Saturday.

Meanwhile, freshman Marshawn Williams (aka "The Juice" or "a heavy load" and "a big load" by ESPNews broadcasters) ran for 41 yards on 12 carries and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. He was energized and ready to play. Williams ran the ball hard, pushed the pile, and carried guys with him who were trying to bring him down. He's as good as advertised and hyped up to be. I just love the way this kid plays, and I think both he and McKenzie are future great running backs for Virginia Tech. They have the "it" factor to me. But I won't try to get too far ahead of myself. It was only William & Mary and the Hokies have a long way to go this season.

Veteran, J.C. Coleman had 10 carries for 20 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run. Supposedly he hit the weight room hard in the off season and has bulked up some. He's still quick, shifty, and runs hard. But Coleman's lack of size scares me and that's why he isn't an every down running back. Yes, he has the ability to make plays, but overall I believe he is better utilized as a return man and coming across the field in motion. He needs to get to the edges and to me can't be that back running between the tackles consistently.

Joel Caleb also ran the ball some. He gained 19 yards on five carries. With the departure of Chris Mangus and Jerome Wright, look for Caleb to see a lot more time in the backfield this year. He's athletic and shows spurts of agility that can be implemented in both the running and passing game.

So what does Shane Beamer do with Trey Edmunds?

He did not see a single carry at running back versus William & Mary. He's proven what he can do on the field and against top talent at that. Just look at the Alabama game last year in his collegiate debut. With his injury does he return and start at running back?

I think the answer is no. I think Edmunds either sits out versus Ohio State or comes in and gets a small amount of carries to establish some confidence.

Both Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie will show glimpses of greatness this season. I believe that Tech will use as many running backs as they please. The offensive line will execute, be sound technique wise, and be a cohesive group. That will allow whoever is in the backfield the chance to succeed.

I think you'll see a lot of different and fresh legs on the field this year because the talent is there at the coaches' disposal. It may not be the Ryan Williams, Darren Evans, and David Wilson trio from years back, but the 2014 running backs can be the real deal in the NCAA.

So, as the saying goes: "If you got it, flaunt it."

Tech has good running backs, so don't be surprised to see all of them on the field.