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Virginia Tech football: Steven Peoples looking like the man at running back

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Head coach Justin Fuente continues to praise the former walk-on.

NCAA Football: Miami at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech RB Steven Peoples after a touchdown reception vs. Miami in 2016.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Could former walk-on Steven Peoples be Virginia Tech’s answer at running back in 2017?

Head coach Justin Fuente certainly believes in the junior running back from nearby Galax, Virginia. And if fall camp is any indication, the Hokies could have the former fullback as the team’s primary ball carrier in 2017.

Fuente spoke with the media on Friday afternoon, ahead of the team’s scrimmage, and Peoples was a player he spoke of extensively, per Virginia Tech’s official athletic website.

He’s solely working at tailback, which I think has helped Steven. Last year, we were trying to fill that H-back role, and we did a little bit with Chris Cunningham, a little bit with Sam Rogers, a little bit with Steven Peoples, and then later in the year, Steven started working a little bit at tailback. So I think him working exclusively at tailback has helped him. I’ve been really pleased with him. He’s got great pad level, he’s an explosive player, and he’s strong as can be. He’s a good, tough hard-nose runner, so I’ve been pleased with that move or that decision and Steven’s response to that decision has gone well.

Peoples isn’t new to tailback. At Galax High, Peoples was a celebrated runner, rushing for 3,078 yards and 44 touchdowns in his senior season. In one game, Peoples rushed for 502 yards on just 22 carries and that remains a VHSL record.

In his first two years on campus, Peoples worked mostly at fullback, which Fuente alluded to in his presser. That experience led him to play in all 27 of Virginia Tech’s games the last two seasons. While Virginia Tech has a longstanding tradition of former walk-ons becoming major contributors, it’s rare one makes an impact as quickly as Peoples did.

Fuente isn’t going to say who his starting running back is. However, the former starter, Travon McMillian, surely hasn’t helped himself this summer. Coaches were frustrated with McMillian last year for mental lapses on the field and not always giving his best. Peoples brings it on every play. That’s why Fuente and this coaching staff love him.

McMillian, along with sophomore Deshawn McClease and freshman Jalen Holston, will all push for playing time this season. But if the season began today, Peoples would lead Virginia Tech in rushing attempts. And when the Hokies line up across from West Virginia at FedEx Field next month, don’t be surprised if it’s Peoples who totes the rock for the Hokies.