The first thing that a sports analyst notices about the list of available Hokie Running Backs is that there are only Running Backs listed. That’s right, a perusal of the roster listing is completely un FB’d and that’s not Facebook. There are no Fullbacks listed on the Spring 2017 Roster, and there don’t seem to be any Fullbacks in the paint shaker of new Freshman talent coming in the door.
The next item that I see is the distinct lack of Freshman talent expected to show for the Fall effort. There were four that I didn’t publish on the Receivers roster (2 TE’s and 2 WR’s) but I don’t see how they get close to avoiding a redshirt. I do see that the one additional Running Back expected to show up might actually make the team this season. Why, you ask? Because there are a grand total of 8 running backs on the roster, and even though that sounds like a bunch, remember the lack of Full Backs, and the lack of experience to go with it.
Steven Peoples and Travon McMillian are the only two players with any appreciable game time with two seasons each. Coleman Fox and D.J. Reid both have some snaps, and then the list gets really thin. So let’s take a trip through the tailbacks in class order.
Virginia Tech Hokie 2017 Running Back Roster
|48||D.J. Reid||-||RB||6' 1"||235||r-Jr.||Chester, Va.|
|32||Steven Peoples||2||RB||5' 9"||218||Jr.||Galax, Va.|
|34||Travon McMillian||2||RB||6' 0"||205||Jr.||Woodbridge, Va.|
|16||Coleman Fox||-||RB||5' 11"||193||r-So.||Salem, Va.|
|33||Deshawn McClease||-||RB||5' 9"||180||r-So.||Chesapeake, Va.|
|41||Trey Skeens||-||RB||5' 11"||216||r-So.||Wytheville, Va.|
|44||Terius Wheatley||-||RB||6' 0"||185||Fr.||Ann Arbor, Mich.|
|Jalen Holston||-||RB||6' 0"||220||Fr.||Stockbridge, GA|
D.J. Reid, as mention before, is a redshirt Junior from Chester, VA. He really didn’t get much of an opportunity to show his stuff on Saturdays before last season. D.J. played in five games last year, and managed an excellent 5.4 yards a carry. He ran the ball three times against Boston College. Unfortunately, that is also the sum total. I’d be nice to see D.J. break out of the pack this season and maybe push that 5.4 yard average for more than 12 scattered attempts in five games.
Steven Peoples is doing something a bit different this season. Last year, he played at his usual Fullback spot, even catching a nifty Fullback to Fullback touchdown from Sam Rogers. Steven started six games, and netted 60 yards on 16 carries, scoring a TD on the ground to go with the TD reception. The Fuente Offense doesn’t seem to have any more place for the traditional Fullback than it does for the Receiving Tight End, so it’s not surprising that Peoples is being given a chance to broaden his chances with a more generalized Tailback role. You have to wonder if he might also be worked into that hybrid TE/RB position (H-Back for lack of a better term) that Fuente adopted with Sam Rogers on the field. This is going to be Peoples’ big chance to make the 3-deep near the top.
There is no missing the reality that 2015 was Travon’s season with 200 touches and 1043 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last season seemed to be a bit disappointing for him though he did still play in every game with a start in 7 of them. Changing coaches and offensive schemes can get more than a bit difficult when the added pressure of being thought of as a starter. Travon did manage to net a respectable 4.6 yards a carry, but there were 55 fewer attempts handed out. McMillian did prove that he had reasonably good hands coming out of the backfield for Coach Fuente, though and ended up with 3 touchdowns receiving the ball. Travon’s performance in the Belk Bowl was a wonderful way to cap a slightly frustrating season. If he brings that attitude and discipline to the huddle in the Fall, Travon should be causing more #FEEDTRAVON hashtags to fly this season. The team is going to need him to use his experience to lead the running back corps.
Coleman Fox didn’t really see any action last season. His first year was spent rehabbing an injury. His appearances with the team at the Spring Game were workman –like, but Fox is a bit of an unknown. We’ll see if he shows up on Special Teams this season. At 5’11” and 195 or so he’s got possibilities there. Deshawn McClease played in the 2016 opener against Liberty, and ran for 27 yards. He, like Fox, is just at the start of any potential significant field time. Both of these young men are going to have to step up this season. Trey Skeens is a bit bigger than Colman Fox, and is in a similar position. He didn’t get any playing time last season, and should be looking to get something going somewhere.
The final two players are Freshmen with no real college field experience. Terius Wheatley and Jalen Holston are both going to be challenged this Fall. As the 7th and 8th places on the class ranking, the coaches are going to have the barest minimum of experience with their skill sets and knowledge of the offense. Wheatly is not a new name to football, his father Tyrone Wheatly played football for ten seasons in the NFL and was a standout Michigan running back in college. That’s not a guarantee of talent, but it is a sure bet that Terius understands what he is up against, and is preparing himself for the effort. Jalen Holston is going to be an interesting addition to the mix for Fall. He’s a legitimate 4-Star Running Back coming from a prime program and leaving 3,000 yards of dust and frustrated defenders behind him. Holston has a legitimate possibility of completely avoiding the usual freshman red shirt. He’s not huge at 6’0” but he is 220 pounds of rocket fast muscle with quick feet and another gear to hit when he wants it. He reminds me a bit of David Wilson. Does he do backflips and chase down rabbits?
The truth of football that everyone knows; the attrition problem facing all teams at running back is ever present and brutal. The Hokies have had their share of bad luck and every member of this, very shallow squad, and better understand that their number could be called in any game. The two true Freshmen on the team may not get a chance to redshirt this season. Eight is a small number to cover thirteen, or more games in a season.
Right now, without seeing how Terius Wheatley and Jalen Holston fit into the grander portions of Justin Fuente’s offensive plans, we are left to take a stab at four potential starting running backs. Let us hope that Coaches Burden, Cornelsen, and Fuente aren’t fond of the tailback carousel that has plagued the Hokies for the last five seasons.
Travon McMillian, if healthy, practiced, and focused, is undoubtedly the number 1 RB in the lineup. After that, the competition is going to be fierce, and even Travon could be challenged. The Virginia Tech Hokie backfield is going to be an interesting place in August, that’s one thing that I’ll say for it.
Next Up, the Offensive Line gets a good going over.
Do the Kish brothers get to play the guard positions this season? That’s just one question among many more for this inexperienced unit. (Have we heard this one before?)
Your Best Guess at the RB order for WVU
This poll is closed
McMillian, Peoples, Reid
Peoples, McMillian, Holston
Doesn’t matter, Travon is #1 everyone else can get in line and prove themselves.