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Hokies 2017 Recruiting Preview: Running Back

Virginia Tech's new offense might go fast, but Coach Fuente isn't afraid to pound the rock. Here are four options for adding to a very talented but young running back corps. It's football, and the roster begs for attention several seasons in advance.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Been a while since I've done one of these, mostly because we've had a nice string of interviews or actual recruiting news. But now I'm going to go over running backs and our recruiting efforts in the backfield. Now, it's pointless to talk about fullbacks, mostly because they're almost always walk-ons at major universities. Tech's running back situation in the fall is kind of in the air to some degree because the depth chart is surprisingly unsettled. Based on Fuente's own words, and his track record of splitting up carries heavily in his running game, I don't think that we can expect the typical 1,000+ (Well, old typical) yard season out of a main running back. It'll be a whole rushing attack this year. And yes, to me that sounds suspiciously like the dreaded ‘running back rotation'. If that's the case then at least it will be someone with a track record of offensive success rather than Scot Loeffler and Shane Beamer calling the shots. Here's a ‘depth chart' of our running backs for the fall and their grades (fullbacks exempted; Sam Rogers will factor in somewhere along the line):

  1. Travon McMillian (R-So.)
  2. Shai McKenzie (R-So.)
  3. Deshawn McClease (R-Fr.)
  4. D.J. Reid (R-So.)
  5. Coleman Fox (R-Fr.)

(Marshawn Williams is still rehabbing from injury, and will be a redshirt sophomore.)

Again, that's a soft depth chart. We could see all of them, or a couple of them in the fall. But the major point is that they're all young. We didn't recruit one this past recruiting class, so we'll be in the market heavily this and next year to try and get some young depth before it all disappears at the same time. Here's four running backs that we're interested in this year:

Khalan Laborn (Virginia Beach, VA. 199lbs, 5'-10". All-purpose Back)

Okay, good news is that he's very highly rated and we're his supposed number two and he's right here in our backyard (well, insofar as we've tried to claim the 757 is). 4-star on 247, ESPN, Scout, and Rivals, one of the supposed best in the nation. Great. Bad news, in a surprise to no one, he's currently predicted by 15-of-15 247 Crystal Balls to...Florida State. And the SEC is moving in- Auburn and Alabama in particular. Doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it doesn't bode well. So what would he offer? Laborn is, well, as his position says, very versatile. He's got plenty of speed and moves. I wouldn't say he's David Wilson fast, but he's plenty quick. He's very good at weaving his way through a defense and making people miss in the hole. His legs are very shifty, and he's got just the right build to be hard to tackle. His balance is excellent and it's really hard to knock him off his legs. Put simply- Laborn is a complete back, where the package of things he can do compliments each other well that the sum of the parts gives you a very good standalone weapon. I can't even say he's a side to side or downhill runner because he'll do one to do the other and shift directions as required. The reason why he's coveted is because he's an easy plug-and-play.   Competent blocking would lead him to a lot of yards.

Next, we've got somewhat the opposite- a big boy from Florida that's just a load to bring down.

Trace Christian (Altamonte Springs, FL. 210lbs, 6'-1". Running back)

Christian is a three star running back by 247, Scout, and Rivals, but is unranked by ESPN. Christian is built bigger and thicker than Laborn, but he's in some ways a similar back. He's probably speedy on a similar level- I'd say a tick downward. He's much more a straight-line runner than he is a shifty guy, though his footwork is solid enough. I like that I got some more tape of him receiving and being run out of more formations than Laborn has on record. It's interesting that they actually try to employ him in different ways and give him different looks at the defense. There's a little wishbone/triple option, a little halfback split wide, etc. He's worked as the A back and the B back in the triple option, the tailback in a power-I and Ace, and done some outside work. In all, he's actually a pretty versatile weapon of his own right. The main competitors for him are Mississippi State, Indiana, NC State, and Louisville. If there's a case to be made for mid-level Florida players being better than their equivalent ranks out of that state, he'd be an example of it.

Here's a familiar-looking back from Georgia, and he's actually got a very interesting offer sheet...

Jalen Holston (Stockbridge, GA. 200lbs, 5'-11". Running Back)

Holston is something you don't see altogether that much anymore, and that's a straight downhill runner. If I was running a zone blocking scheme in college, I'd want this kid. One cut and power on through the line.  He's got some strength to him, but he's not got a lot of shift. Granted, I'm all for guys that break arm and hand tackles- you're going to run into a lot of contact in college, so you better be able to shake it off. He currently plays the A-back or Tailback in his high school offense, and is the home-run hitter on his team. He's also got a little receiving chops out of the backfield, which has to make Fuente happy. In a way he reminds me of Darren Evans- just that strong guy that plows up and through people and can get you the nice chunks of yardage when the hole works out and he can break some tackles along the way. I happened to like Darren Evans, and wouldn't mind seeing that again. Other players in his recruiting are Duke, Louisville, Mississippi State, Virginia, and Georgia (who hasn't offered yet). But he's also got offers from Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia Tech, NC State, Oregon State, Rutgers, and West Virginia, among others. He's rated 3 stars by 247, Scout, and Rivals, and unranked by ESPN.

And lastly, a recruit currently committed to Rutgers...

Jonathan Taylor (Salem, NJ. 200lbs, 6'-0". Running Back)

Taylor is rated 3 stars by Scout, 247, and Rivals, and unranked by ESPN. As previously stated, he's verbally committed to Rutgers, but that can always change in the long march to signing day. Taylor's main feature IS his speed, unlike the other three listed so far. He's not got the shiftiness or footwork of Laborn, nor the strength of Holston, or the size-skill combination of Christian, but he's good enough that a more limited skillset with a faster talent set could be developed into something different.  He follows blocks well and doesn't go down easily for a speed back. He's a different kind of one-cut-and-go runner than Holston, because he's going to rely on the speed to work his way around and through the offense rather than simply up the gut. I'd think of all them he's the one that needs development as an overall player the most, but it's not by any stretch a significant enough margin to be detrimental.

How many will we take this year? Likely one, possibly two, but no more than that. Coach Fuente wants to bring on multiple receivers and linemen and we have depth at the position, so it's better to use those scholarships elsewhere.

Next time, I'll review the wide receiver prospects.