Sophomore fullback Sam Rogers started out as an unknown walk-on last season, as do have several fullbacks at Virginia Tech over the years. Rogers won the starting job and played in all 13 games in the 2013 season, racking up 12 catches for 78 yards and running the ball five times for nine yards, a modest beginning to be sure, but still promising.
He was spotlighted on Virginia Tech Sports Today last season where I learned that Rogers was a two-time first-team All-Metro selection and first team all-district and all-region who played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and also played on defense at Hanover High School in Virginia. Because he excelled at several positions, he earned first-team all-state as a utility player. He lettered all four years, rushed for 1,178 yards and 18 touchdowns, caught five passed for 90 yards, and passed for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns his senior year. Had he kicked he would have been the second coming of Paul Hornung.
Rogers joined the team along side new Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, and his hurry-up offensive attack, which struggled with Logan Thomas at the helm. Thomas wasn't the prototype QB for Loeffler's system but now that Texas Tech transfer Micahel Brewer has taken the reigns of the Hokie offense, everything seems to be coming full circle, and that includes getting versatile players involved in every way possible. And Sam Rogers is among the most versatile of those players.
Typically, a Tech fullback doesn't get much time with the ball. He throws himself at oncoming middle linebackers, might catch a swing pass or three and get's a short yardage attempt here or there. That was all Rogers saw last year, but now with the players settling in with the new offense, he looks to play a key role in Tech's system.
Now we didn't see much from Rogers in the William & Mary game except for some fantastic blocking, particularly upfield on the McKenzie run. But as far as the Ohio State game is concerned, he was simply great in every way. Rogers ended up with one rush for 17 yards on a reverse and five catches for 23 yards and a touchdown.
Here, Rogers is by the tackle and off the ball. And then he runs a route aiming for the first pylon to the right side of the field, Brewer connects with him, he shakes off a defender, and scores his first career touchdown, putting the Hokies up two touchdowns before halftime.
Here, on Michael Brewer's touchdown pass to tight end Bucky Hodges, Rogers is set up by Brewer in the backfield in a shotgun formation, giving him the option to stay in and be used for pass protection or run a route. Ultimately, Rogers runs a medium flag route out of the backfield and to the left side of the field, giving Brewer a nice underneath option if his first receiver isn't open. So this gives us some inclination as to what Rogers can do. We already know he's a great blocker both in pass protection and in the run game, but now he is a weapon out of the backfield in the passing game.
I couldn't find specific videos of either of my next two breakdowns, but you can watch them in the highlights on this page. What I was most impressed with was Rogers's amazing sideline catch for a first down from Brewer trying to get a pass off before being hit as he was flushed out of the pocket by pursuing Buckeyes. He went up for the ball between two Ohio State defenders and kept control of the football while landing one foot in bounds as he was falling toward the sideline. This made me a Sam Rogers believer. I'm actually excited for what Tech is doing with fullbacks now!
Then the play of Rogers's that is probably stuck in everyone's mind is the "Reverse Option/Pass" as I'll call it. The Hokies lined up strong left in an offset I-formation I believe with Darius Redman at fullback and J.C. Coleman at tailback. Meanwhile, Sam Rogers was split out wide left. Brewer tossed left to Coleman and then the ball is handed off to Rogers on a reverse. Brewer rolled out right and ran a route down the field for Rogers to set up a pass. But it wasn't there and Rogers tucked the ball and gained a nice chunk of yardage to help set up the Brewer to Hodges touchdown pass. If you remember carefully, it's the same play Tech used against Virginia on the first offensive drive for the Hokies last season. Quarterback Logan Thomas caught the ball and seemingly ran it in for a touchdown, but the refs called it back, saying his knee was down when he caught the ball near the sideline.
Sam Rogers is probably the most versatile fullback I've seen play at Virginia Tech. He can run, block, catch, and pass. He is Tech's fullback, but is also an amazing utility player just like he was in high school. The Hokies will look to see what else they can do with Sam Rogers and figure out every way possible to include him in this improved offense. If you have ability, Loeffler is going to find a way to utilize it, and that is perhaps as refreshing as anything that has gone on in Blacksburg in years.