The second installment of the Virginia Tech 2015 season preview series focuses on the running backs. Senior J.C. Coleman, Trey Edmunds, Shai McKenzie and Travon McMillian will all feature into the mix of speedsters carrying the ball for the Hokies. Part one of the series featuring Michael Brewer and the other Virginia Tech signal callers can be found here.
What We Know
The Hokies unquestionably feature a deep running back core.
J.C. Coleman is a reliable option as the feature running back because of his speed and agility. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry last season, rushing for a team-high 560 yards.
Trey Edmunds is primed to have an exceptional junior campaign. Edmunds will likely be the second option behind Coleman, but he could become the starter depending upon his on-field production. In 2013, as a freshman, Edmunds led the Hokies with 675 yards on 166 touches, including 10 touchdowns. However, he suffered a broken collarbone last season that limited him to only seven games, during which he ran the ball 21 times for 97 yards.
Sophomore Shai McKenzie was also injured last season as he tore his ACL late in a game against Western Michigan, but he should be ready to go for 2015. He has been rehabbing his right knee this offseason, and he was also suspended from the team during spring practice. He has since been reinstated to the team, but he will miss the Ohio State game. However, when McKenzie does return for the Hokies, he has the potential to be an impact player. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and rushed for 279 yards in only 5 games played last season.
Areas of Concern
You may have noticed that superstar Marshawn Williams has yet to be mentioned. The sophomore tore his left ACL against Duke last season on November 15, and he missed all of spring practice. Although Williams has participated during practice this fall, he likely will still miss some of the 2015 season. There is a big question mark surrounding Williams because head coach Frank Beamer has expressed interest in redshirting Williams altogether because of the injury. His loss would be a huge blow to the Hokie offense as the hardnosed tailback rushed for 509 yards and 4 touchdowns in nine games last season before being injured.
Additionally, a crucial area of concern for Virginia Tech is the overall health of the running back core. The Hokies cannot afford to have another season in which 3 of their top running backs are sidelined with injuries. Williams, Edmunds and McKenzie each will be returning in 2015 on the heels of injuries last season so there likely will be moments of readjustment and/or continued discomfort.
Potential Breakout Player
Redshirt-freshman Travon McMilian impressed the Virginia Tech coaching staff in spring practices and during camp this fall. He possesses speed and athletic ability. McMilian could emerge as a dependable running back for the Hokies this season though he does have multiple players ahead of him on the depth chart. He is a converted quarterback, and he was ranked as the No. 44 “athlete” in the country in high school according to ESPN Recruiting Nation.
RB: J.C. Coleman (5-6/192) Senior
Key reserves: Trey Edmunds, r-Jr. (6-2/224); Shai McKenzie, So. (5-11/221); Marshawn Williams, So. (5-11/243); Travon McMillian, r-Fr. (6-0/196); D.J. Reid, r-Fr. (6-1/221)
True freshmen: Coleman Fox (5-11/192), Deshawn McClease (5-9/177)
Running backs coach Shane Beamer’s job should be easy this season unless the Hokies are plagued by injuries again. Beamer has several talented running backs that he can use to keep defenses guessing, including Coleman, Williams, Edmunds, McKenzie and McMilian. If Michael Brewer does not perform well at quarterback for the Hokies, the running game will be relied upon to move the ball. However, the best case scenario is that the running backs core is so productive that Brewer can effectively use the play-action passing game, thus boosting the offense as a whole. Coleman, Williams, Edmunds, McKenzie and McMilian certainly form a dangerous group.