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Virginia Tech Hokies 2016 Roster Preview – Running Backs and QBs

We have three experienced Tailbacks back. We hope they stay healthy. But the Hokies are looking for a Quarterback out of the five that we have on the roster. Can anyone make a real impact with the new offense? It's time Part 2 of the 2016 Preview.

#FEEDTRAVON
#FEEDTRAVON
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

So, we bored everyone to tears with the Offensive Line preview. I guess only former linemen really care much about the detail of the trenches.

Now it's time to dig into the deepest part of the roster, the Offensive Backfield. There aren't really too many guarantees to mention regarding the backfield's situation other than to say that Sam Rogers and Travon McMillian will undoubtedly be extremely important, and very busy this season.   We know that because we know that both of them excelled last season, and manage to not be injured or out of action for extended periods.  We know that D.J. Reid will find some way to contribute (His Spring effort was impressive).

That dispenses with the "what we know positive" about the Hokie backfield for 2016.   Now, we start down the less attractive path of relative unknowns to complete guesses.  You see, though the depth chart for the Tailback position is deep and there are no "true freshmen" in line to redshirt, we really don't have a clue as to how the running back situation will shake out.

The roster shakes out with almost no real consistent experience save Travon McMillian who is the presumed number 1 back in the depth chart.  Both McKenzie sidelined due to injury and off field issues and Marshawn Williams sidelined for injuries are still on the roster.  The rundown of who is who and what is what is as follows:

Travon McMillian - redshirt Sophomore, #FEEDTRAVON was a constant hashtag from last season.  McMillian, even with a problematic Offensive Line and a .500 regular season managed to slash and cut his way to a two all ACC honors and 1043 yards on 200 carries.  That's an average of 5.2 yards a carry and cannot help but attract serious coaching attention.  Travon was a bright spot in the offense last season.

Marshawn Williams - redshirt Sophomore, Williams didn't play in 2015 due to a knee injury suffered late in 2014.  He did play 9 games in 2014 with a 3.8 yard per carry average and 4 touchdowns.  That was a promising start for a new and inexperienced player, but the knee injury halted any positive improvement that could have been gained over the remainder of the season.

Shai McKenzie -€” true Sophomore, McKenzie has only played 7 games over two seasons due to a torn ACL in the 2014 campaign.  The double injury to Williams and McKenzie was a serious blow to the offense and probably had a serious negative impact on several winnable games between the '14 and '15 efforts.

On the inexperienced experienced but looking capable side of the roster, D.J. Reid and Coleman Fox both showed up to play in the 2016 Spring Game.  At 5'11" and 192 though, Fox might get his first playing reps at Special Teams positions.  Deshawn McClease might get some Special Teams Reps.  The big issue will continue to be the readiness to step up into starting and backup roles for these players.

As has been demonstrated over and over, this small roster of Tailbacks had better be ready.  Travon proved extremely durable last season, but there is always the hovering danger of injury that will pull the next guy up one level whether or not he thinks that he's ready.

The Fuente/Cornelsen offense is highly dependent on the influence running game.  It's something that McMillian and to a certain extent, Williams have shown that they can execute well.  It is, however, a totally new offense with very different disciplines and it is being implemented over time, as Coach Fuente has repeatedly stated.  There will be much to learn.  The read and execution patterns are changing, and old habits might not completely fit.

2016 Runningback/Tailback Roster

No.

Name

Exp

Pos.

Height

Weight

Class

34

Travon McMillian

1

RB

6' 0"

200

r-So.

48

D.J. Reid

-

RB

6' 1"

240

r-So.

42

Marshawn Williams

1

RB

5' 11"

239

r-So.

28

Shai McKenzie

1

RB

5' 11"

215

So.

16

Coleman Fox

-

RB

5' 11"

192

r-Fr.

33

Deshawn McClease

-

RB

5' 9"

177

r-Fr.

This is a difficult part of the roster to go through.  The position of Fullback has been seriously diminished at most levels and on most teams in any football organization.  The last really great all-purpose fullback (receiving, power running, speed) was probably Jerome "The Bus" Bettis; and he was rare enough that there were few notable guys between him and John Riggins.  Both of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though.

Sam Rogers -€” true Senior, This is not to say that Sam Rogers is going to be the next ‘Bus', or ‘Diesel' but there is a certain feel to the way he plays football, and leads the team that give some hope that the position of Fullback might show up as significant, again someday.    So, it seems that the last three seasons, walk-on Senior leader Sam Rogers might not be playing much Fullback this season.  My guess is that he'll be playing nearly every other skill position on the field.   Rogers has played Tailback, passed three times with 2 critical completions, he's played H-Back and is a capable receiver.  He isn't flashy, just really good, and has played significant snaps in every single game for three seasons.

Steven Peoples -€” true Sophomore, Peoples is "that guy".  You don't exactly remember that he was in the game, except when you go back and look.  He's come up with a tackle on special teams, or been part of a roll out blocking pattern for the offense.  He was there for 195 "snaps" last season, mostly on Special Teams.  It's going to be difficult to determine just where the Fullback will fit in the Offense, but I bet Coach Shibest will be looking at him for more Special Teams work.

Trey Skeens is a redshirt Freshman so where he'll ultimately fit in will be up to how well he does this Fall.

What we do know is that Sam Rogers is a true team leader who the coaches will count on to keep a level head and project that effort to his teammates on the field.  To call him a Fullback is sort of a misnomer, and maybe someone needs to change that concept to something that more closely reflects the way the position has evolved, especially over the last three seasons with Sam.

2016 Fullback Roster

No.

Name

Exp

Pos.

Height

Weight

Class

45

Sam Rogers

3

FB

5' 10"

228

Sr.

32

Steven Peoples

1

FB

5' 9"

218

So.

41

Trey Skeens

-

FB

6' 0"

215

r-Fr.

Now we address the Quarterback logjam.  This is going to be the least agreeable analysis.  Everyone is going to have an option and "their guy" to boost.  There are not many hints coming from Beamer Way, as to where the favorite for #1 or #2 are, but the Quarterback position is definitely a wide open competition with more than a few "fan favored" candidates waiting.  The problem that Chris Durkin realized the problem with six quarterbacks on the practice charts there was more competition than useful expectation.  Durkin has followed Bucky's example and headed out to get a shot at playing Tight End.

Here is where we are at QB as we go through each player in class order.  We will try not to play favorites but I am sure that there will be folks disagreeing or thinking about other possibilities:

Brenden Motley - redshirt Senior, It is very difficult not to like Motley.  He's probably going to have a decent chance at starting the season in the number 1 slot on the depth chart, and even stepping onto Worsham Field as the starter for the Liberty game.  Motley is a local Christiansburg HS product and was a highly rated option quarterback.  Of course that style of play didn't fit in well with the type of plays (hard to call it an offensive scheme) that the prior regime was running.  Motley struggled with passing accuracy during his starting tenure as Michael Brewer's backup.  What he lacked in accuracy, he made up for in leadership, determination, and pure toughness.  It shows the character of a player when he can pick the turf out of his facemask and step back into the huddle to lead.  Oddly, Fuente's offense is more along the lines of what Motley is going to be familiar with.  There are certainly more reads and complications but Motley was made to run a "Cheeto".  We'll see how he does; no one is saying that he's been ruled out.

Jerod Evans -€” transfer Junior, There isn't much to report on Evans.  He played his assigned snaps in the Spring Game.  He looked like he had good presence on the field.  He ran a lot; but that happens quite often in the Fuente offense so it was difficult to determine if it was a purposeful read, or a complete play breakdown that resulted in a QB scramble.  His record and films at the JUCO level are excellent, and he seems more than ready to be challenged with this opportunity to take the step up to Division 1.  He is the most probable starter for Game 1, and probable for the remainder of the season, but those are close to even odds, and the practices and scrimmages in August are going to have to show some serious improvement.

Dwyane Lawson -€” true Sophomore, Lawson should have redshirted last season, but because of the Brewer injury and the need to back up Motley he lost the opportunity for some next level learning and development.  Lawson played a few snaps last season, and was mostly assigned running plays -€” where he took the ball.  His pocket presence and footwork are all (as of the Spring Game) still the one or two reads; pull it down and run, sort of play.  With a better quarterback coach this season, and his physical talents, it will be interesting to see how he's progressed.  There is a great deal of promise there just not a great deal of QB slots to play.

Jack Click -€” redshirt Freshman, Click redshirted last season, and the only appearances that we have seen have been at Spring Games.  He might actually be the surprise player of the season, this past Spring; he demonstrated a good deal of playing balance and some solid work.  We'll see how far he goes in the depth chart.

Josh Jackson -€” true Freshman, Jackson has been touted as a real ‘true' quarterback recruiting effort.  He's been noted as a future potential star, and for that reason and the four other guys obviously ahead of him in the pecking order, will almost certainly get a red shirt this season.  That's not a bad thing, especially when it means that by the time he hits the field for serious playing time, Coach Fuente will be able to teach him from scratch and the playbook is more likely to be much clearer to him.  That's a very good thing for the 2018 and 2019 seasons when he'd be projected to be a starting QB.

2016 Quarterback Roster

No.

Name

Exp

Pos.

Height

Weight

Class

9

Brenden Motley

2

QB

6' 3"

225

r-Sr.

4

Jerod Evans

-

QB

6' 4"

235

Jr.

2

Dwayne Lawson

-

QB

6' 6"

230

So.

11

Jack Click

-

QB

6' 3"

216

r-Fr.

12

Josh Jackson

-

QB

6' 2"

207

Fr.

So let's go over the potential backfield players for the 2016 Fall Practice season:

Runningback:

Tailback

Fullback/H-Back

McMillian

Rogers

Williams/McKenzie

Peoples*

McKenzie/Reid*

Trey Skeens*

McClease*/Fox*

* Players more likely to get snaps on Special Teams

Quarterback

1 - Jerod Evans

2 - Brenden Motley

3 - Dwayne Lawson/Jack Click**

** There is going to be a serious competition for the number 3 slot if Click plays in the Fall the way he played in the Spring.

That's the entire Virginia Tech Hokie Backfield for the 2016 season.  Frankly this is the least problematic group of units on the field at the moment.  Like I said about Motley, Fuente's offense is probably more tuned to his talents than the previous offensive regime's design.  We are deep at quarterback with decently talented players vying for playing positions.  We are also deep at tailback, and if you count the fact that Sam Rogers has played tailback for us in a pinch, we are really deep.

The question will be how the players and coaches adapt to each other, and how the hybrid offense begins to play itself out in August.

Next Up The Receivers...

Go Hokies!!!!!