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Can the Virginia Tech Hokies Walk and Chew at the Same Time?

Part One, The Step. Running... Passing... Running... or is that Passing... Running... Passing? Inventorying the Virginia Tech Hokie Offensive player tool box. We look at who is running the ball, first. Then later we take stock in who's running routes and catching passes. First, we have to take a step.

JC Coleman showing what he can do if given the right plays to run
JC Coleman showing what he can do if given the right plays to run
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

First, The Step.

The running game... The Virginia Tech running game... We left it somewhere.  Where did we put it?  I don't know, I haven't seen it since 2011.   Where do you think we put it; in the big cabinet, in the back of the equipment cage, maybe?  Or, did we leave it on the bus after the Sugar Bowl referee job?  I can't remember, and it's been so long since I've seen it, I not sure that we can find it.  We might need to just bite the bullet and get a new one.

Before we get too far down the road of pontificating on the running game; let's see what we have in the cupboard for ingredients (All charts are listed in order of game experience, since we still haven't seen an official depth chart for the season.):

Fullbacks:

No.

Name

Exp

Play

Height

Weight

Class

Notes

45

Sam Rogers

2

Yes

5' 10"

224

Jr.

Rogers will play and has been used on any down in any situation. Mostly as an H-Back

25

Jerome Wright

1

No

6' 2"

224

Jr.

Really have never seen him in much at all.  He's #2 FB just ‘because'.

32

Steven Peoples

-

No

5' 9"

220

Fr.

Freshman will need to earn his place, unlikely to play.  Redshirt probable

The Fullbacks are listed first for two distinct reasons; limited role in the offense and most of that role is as an H-Back - Blocking Back/extra Tight End.  Though Sam Rogers has probably seen more action over the last couple of seasons than most Virginia Tech Fullbacks,  the Hokie offensive non-scheme still hasn't a complete picture of what to do with a fully capable dual threat (running and receiving) Fullback.  The fact that Rogers was used more last season seemed to be an act of desperation and not a purposeful use of a very talented dual purpose back.

I remember Jerome Wright on the field a couple of times last season, but he didn't show up on many significant stats.  It might be a bit too late for him to make an overall impact, unless Rogers goes down to something unforeseen and unwelcome.   Rogers is unlikely to be displaced from the top of the Fullback grouping.  He's acquitted himself well, and represents something, on the offense, that it's been lacking of late; the "Lunch Pail Attitude" (And we all thought that was just a "defense" thing).

As to the offense's uses for the Fullback, it might be better if the Hokies just abandoned the classic Fullback for the season, and concentrated on using Rogers as a running H-Back compliment to Bucky whether they are in together, or on the field separately for different formations and play concepts.

Now we come to the painful part of this analysis; the Tailback position.  There is so much promise of the "same old-same old" misdirected, misapplied two and occasional three star talent.

Tailbacks:

No.

Name

Exp

Style

Height

Weight

Class

Notes

4

J.C. Coleman

3

Speed

5' 6"

192

Sr.

If they use Colman as a power back to run up the middle, he'll be abused.

14

Trey Edmunds

2

Power

6' 2"

224

r-Jr.

Co-2 in the 3 deep.  I'd get him on the field as much as possible; he could end up time splitting at 1 with McMillian.

42

Marshawn Williams

1

Combo

5' 11"

243

So.

I would Redshirt Williams if I had my druthers.  Let his knee heal and strengthen.

28

Shai McKenzie

1

Power

5' 11"

221

So.

Given the off field issues I'd Red Shirt him and see how he does for a year.

48

D.J. Reid

-

Combo

6' 1"

226

r-Fr.

Number 3/4 in my depth with the possibility of situational work.

34

Travon McMillian

-

Combo

6' 0"

196

r-Fr.

Could end up the starting TB if his work impresses.  I am listing him as #2 in the theoretical depth chart.

16

Coleman Fox

-

Combo

5' 11"

192

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

33

Deshawn McClease

-

Speed

5' 9"

177

Fr.

Expect a Red Shirt

On the whole I think that the Three-Deep depth chart will shake out with the following:

Depth

Name

Visibility (Play Percentage)

Durability

1

JC Coleman

50  (could change down)

Good

2

Travon McMillian

25  (could change up)

Good

2

Trey Edmunds

25  (could change up)

Good

3

D.J. Reid

- Situational

Unknown

I fully expect the Tech coaching staff to redshirt the two Freshmen; McClease and Fox.  It's Frank Beamer's normal practice, and barring a serious injury to the players in the Three-Deep projection, they would only be wasting a year of eligibility by getting few snaps, and probably being overdressed cheerleaders on the sideline.

Marshawn Williams has the potential of presenting us with a serious "feature back" for a change.  However, it is probably not wise to play him this season.  His knee surgery was in December, and frankly that serious a reconstruction takes a year to properly heal and then work back into full strength.  I really think that the Tech coaches should offer this young man a redshirt and allow him to fully rehab and strengthen his knee.  The dividends that a Williams and Lawson, TB and QB combo could be for 2016 through 2018 is just too great an investment to pass up.

On a less sanguine note, the re-addition of McKenzie will present its own very uncomfortable public relations issue, especially for the sports commentariat.   As soon as his name hits the active roster, there is going to be some analyst who will bring up the embarrassing realities of behavioral failings and the related legal consequences.   Unfortunately it's a symptom of the times, and the nature of his offense went beyond the boundaries of many fans' ability to "forgive and forget".   It might be wise to offer him a redshirt and give him a chance to prove that his off field behavior issues are behind him.

The Run Wrap:

There is a good deal of talent on the roster, but no one with the exception of maybe McMillian stands out as a pure feature back.  From the looks of things we will have a floating three or four back platoon.  Which is something that many fans were hoping to avoid since it's S-squared, D-squared.

JC Coleman is a good running back.  He's fast, and gets to the crease quickly, makes a cut and goes - mostly under the pads of most defenders.  He reminds me a great deal of Darren Sproles, and if he is used in that way - edge runs, misdirection, counter gaps, and toss sweeps, JC could find himself with a seriously good season.   I am hoping that he gets to shine in his Senior year effort.  My confidence in him is not matched by my low level of confidence in the game planning and play calling from the booth; however.

My guess is that by the middle of the season, the muddle in the backfield will continue, and the Three-Deep will have shuffled more than a few times.  On a brighter note, this could be a breakout season for Trevon McMillian.  If he succeeds in avoiding the bloody piles of humanity at the line of scrimmage, we could see his depth number shift quickly, if it hasn't already.

Suffice it to say, that the running game is probably going to be an "issue" again this season.   This was the Step part.

Next up, Part Two - the Chew thing (Receiving)

** Please note that this analysis is based on the author's opinion of the facts on the ground, the fumes in the air, and first fall scrimmage.  No official Hokie Athletic staff were accosted, schmoozed, or flattered to get this information.