A dual-freshman threat has emerged in the Virginia Tech backfield to begin the team's 2014 campaign. Shai McKenzie (5-11, 221; Washington, PA, Washington) and Marshawn Williams (5-11, 229; Hampton, VA, Phoebus) have both featured prominently in the Hokies' undefeated start to the season, combining for 170 yards and 3 touchdows on 39 total carries. The new-look ground game has been a welcome addition in Blacksburg -- unless your name is Trey Edmunds.
Edmunds, the incumbent running back from a season ago, has seen his name slide down the depth chart as he recovered from a broken tibia suffered during last season's tilt against UVA that ended his productive redshirt freshman season. In his absence, the Hokies have found a rhythm on offensive that has been elusive in recent years, making it difficult to acclimate Edmunds back into the rotation.
As a redshirt freshman, Edmunds had a solid, if not spectacular debut in 2013. He burst onto the scene with a stellar debut against perennial powerhouse Alabama, racking up 132 yards on 20 carries, including this 77 yard beauty:
Edmunds' night vs. the Tide was also statistically significant: it marked the first time a VT running back topped the 100 yard mark in his debut since 1996. More impressively, he became only the 13th back since 2005 to gain 100 yards against Alabama's vaunted defense. In total, Trey finished the year having rushed for 675 yards and 10 touchdowns on 166 attempts while adding 155 receiving yards and 2 additional touchdowns. However, as is common place in sports, the fickle finger of fate pointed it's finger at Edmunds, who is now struggling to find his place in the Hokies lineup. While Beamer insists Edmunds is not ready to handle a major role in the backfield, there is also a feeling among some Hokie fans that the head coach may like what he has seen from his young buck running backs, making it difficult to justify taking carries away from them. To date, Edmunds has seen action on kickoff coverage but sparse action on offense, and pretty much finds himself a man with out a country.
Should head coach Frank Beamer decide not to disrupt a currently productive offensive unit, could Edmunds slide over to the other side of the football? The move to the defensive side of the ball is not as farfetched as it may appear on the surface: he split time between running back and outside linebacker during his time at Dan River High School when the Hokies recruited him in 2012. As a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech Edmunds spoke to the DailyPress on the matter, stating:
"Basically, I just want to come in and help the team wherever I can. If coach needs me, whether it's on offense or defense, then he'll play me, I really don't have a preference. Believe it or not, I really can't pick a preference (linebacker or tailback) ."
The ability and willingness to adapt to his team's needs may prove to be an invaluable trait as his college career progresses. Finding significant playing time on a stout Virginia Tech defense could be tough this season; however senior Chase Williams is playing his final season in Maroon and Orange, possibly opening a spot in 2015 for Edmunds. Should Beamer decide to experiment with him at linebacker, Trey would also have a family connection at linebacker moving forward, as. his youngest brother, outside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds committed to the Hokies at the end of July. He would also join his middle brother, cornerback Terrell Edmunds on the Virginia Tech defense.
Integrating a player returning from injury can be a difficult proposition when team chemistry is concerned; but Trey Edmunds deserves a chance. Recruited as a replacement for David Wilson, Trey did an admirable job on a 2013 VT offense void of much production before being injured. Beamer has acknowledged in the past that there could be a time when Edmunds would see time at linebacker. That time is now -- for Edmunds and the Hokies' benefit.