Spring Position Preview: Running Back

by bmann4 on February 10, 2013 · 14 comments

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jcc1 Spring Position Preview: Running BackPerhaps no position on Virginia Tech’s roster will be as competitive as the tailback position in spring practice. A pair of sophomores, J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, will compete with senior Tony Gregory and freshman Trey Edmunds for carries in 2013.

The Hokies’ running game was an unmitigated disaster, to say the least, in 2012. The problems ranged from inexperienced running backs and poor offensive line play to unimaginative playcalling.

Head coach Frank Beamer has always taken pride in the Hokies building a strong running game to go with a solid defense. The ground game didn’t do its part in 2012 which led to a stagnant passing game.

The Hokies don’t lack for talent at the position. Coleman was outstanding at times as a true freshman last season. Holmes started and received the majority of the carries early in the season while Coleman acclimated to the college game. Holmes, however, was inconsistent which opened the door for Coleman and Tony Gregory.

Gregory played well when he was on the field. He has fought injuries throughout his career at Virginia Tech and in 2012 he was returning from tearing his ACL the prior year. Known for his excellent speed, Gregory actually showed good vision last year. If he can remain healthy, he will be a part of the mix this season but will never be counted upon to carry the ball 20 times or more per game.

Coleman at 5-foot-7, 192 pounds, is thickly built with blinding speed. He is surprisingly strong and showed better vision than David Wilson did his freshman year. He can score from anywhere on the field and proved, when given the chance, he can run between the tackles.

Coleman also showed he is capable in the passing game, too. For years, the Hokies have ignored getting the running backs involved in the passing game missing out on many chances to get their best players in space.

Holmes may be the hardest of the three returning primary runners to judge. He at times looked quick and decisive with good vision. However, there were times where he would miss an open hole or danced in the backfield before reaching the line of scrimmage resulting in a loss of yardage.

Beamer almost played Edmunds last season as a true freshman but he did not want to waste a year of eligibility if he wasn’t sure which position Edmunds would eventually play. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Edmunds is much different than all of the other backs. To go with that tremendous size, Edmunds has good speed and will always pick up extra yards after contact. The problem with Edmunds is he could end up being an even better linebacker than running back. Keep in mind that Edmunds was a Parade All-American running back his senior year of high school. He is in the mix here but don’t be surprised if he switches back to defense before the summer. It truly depends on guys like Chris Mangus, Jerome Wright and D.J. Reid.

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Mangus, from Raleigh, N.C., may be the fastest player on the team. A sprinter and track star in high school, Mangus also happens to be an accomplished football player. Mangus rushed for 1,658 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year. It will be interesting to see if he has added any weight since last summer. He is more of an outside runner at this point but players with speed like Mangus will get on the field.

Wright originally committed to the Hokies last year but spent the fall semester at Fork Union and enrolled in January. He is truly a player to keep an eye on. At 6-foot-1, 223 pounds, Wright has great size and is a bruiser. He has surprising quickness and could bring a different dimension to the offense, especially if Edmunds moves to defense.

Reid is a recent signee and was recruited as an athlete. Coaches plan to give Reid his first opportunity as a running back but don’t be surprised if he moves to defensive back or wide receiver. He is a terrific athlete could be in line to be a slot receiver for the Hokies. Odds are Reid will redshirt in 2013.

Drew Harris, a four-star running back who committed to the Hokies in 2012, didn’t sign his letter of intent last week and even though he has stated multiple times he is coming to Blacksburg, it doesn’t look good at this point. If Harris does enroll in May, he will figure into the mix at running back.

How bad was the Hokies’ running game last year in comparison to 2011? David Wilson ran for a school-record 1,709 yards in 2011. All five tailbacks that carried the ball in 2012 combined 1,259 yards. Quarterback Logan Thomas was the team’s leading rusher which is never good.

It is important to mention that the offensive line was bad last year. They replaced four starters and never seemed comfortable as a unit. Injuries and poor play by some held the group back. Even when healthy, the coaches inexplicably rotated players at the three interior positions and there was never any continuity. New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will change that.

This is overall a good group of running backs but don’t be surprised if the Hokies lean on one or two players to carry the load. Coleman will certainly be heavily involved. If the Hokies are going to prove that last year was an aberration, they must have an improved running game.


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

chachi February 11, 2013 at 12:16 am

Where do you think Edmunds will end up? I have seen some folks argue that with a year of practice on the offensive side, he is locked in there at RB. But with the thinness of our LB’s, he seems a natural to play there, either as a whip or with some bulk, mike or backer. My gut tells me he goes to the defense, but I just don’t know. Any thoughts?


JustinC February 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

Actually Chachi, Bryan wrote this article so I’ll let him chime in here as well. But, I think Edmunds ends up as our starting RB this year just because his upside there is huge. He could also be a really good backer but we have Deon Clarke (who should be a R-Fr next year after he applied for a redshirt waiver) at the position as well. Plus, Moss is coming in this fall too. So, we’re good at backer.

You have to remember that Edmunds was a 17 year old high school graduate. I think I recall hearing that he skipped a grade when he was younger, which caused him to be the youngest person in his graduating class. I mean, you give him one more year of high school and he probably would have ended up as a five star. So, the upside there is huge.


bmann4 February 11, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Thanks, Justin. Very good points on Edmunds. I think he has the potential to be tremendous at either position. Harris’ situation I do think will play a part in where Edmunds plays. But, you’re right, he was such an outstanding high school RB and could make a huge difference there.

We are in a good position with him as he could also be an outstanding LB. It will be fun to watch through the spring and summer.


tron February 11, 2013 at 5:33 am

i think edmunds at running back depends if harris enrolls.


bmann4 February 11, 2013 at 11:10 pm


I do think that plays a major part in it as well.


sparko February 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I don’t think that trey edmunds at running back has anything to do with drew harris. he is 100% running back as far as i can see it. he came to vt under the assumption that he would be given a shot, he will make good with his shot, and i would look for edmunds and coleman to be a 1-2 punch … fwiw — there is probably a >50% chance that drew harris NEVER suits up in orange and maroon


bmann4 February 11, 2013 at 11:11 pm


I agree that it is looking very grim for Drew Harris to come to VT. It would be an upset if he did at this point.

Wherever Edmunds plays, he will be terrific.


Ben February 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm

VT has offered 32 of rivals top 250, how many do you think we can land?


JustinC February 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I think anywhere from 4-8 is a good estimate. You have to remember that the list is going to change drastically between now and February of next year. I still think Willliams and Harrison should be on there. Plus, we’re recruiting several high three stars that could make the jump with a good camp circuit.


bp February 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Justin, how random is this did you see Lockley signed with Miami today, that is sooo weird we were thinking he had grade issues right?


JustinC February 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Yea, he’s probably going to have to prep or go the JUCO route. Of course, Miami is a private school so its up to their admissions on whether or not he makes it in if he’s met the NCAA minimum requirements. He and Parker were two talented kids but both didn’t do what they needed to off the field to come to VT or UVA.


sparko February 13, 2013 at 10:13 am

ben: i think we get minimum 6 … but more likely 8+ (mihota and williams should both really be in that list and i think williams ends up there before end of season)


JustinC February 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I would say a minimum of five right now but I think there is potential for 6-8. Odds are, we’re not going to get many of the OOS guys we’re going after. Plus, its really hard to say how Grimes does recruiting OL. He could grab 3-4 4* and 5* OL or he could get a guy like Coleman Thomas, Steven Moss, and a couple others and only end up with 1 4*.

There’s a lot of uncertainty but with our staff now, it’s hard not to be excited at the possibilities.


Sparko February 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Weve already got harrison and reavis will he a hokie. I think m williams will end up in the r250 before its over too

I think we also get: Hand, Holmes, park, moss

maybe Nnadi, walker, prince, Street (walker to in thee now but could also end up in the r250)

Bates could end up being in the mix and we could luck out somewhere else if we can get D hand to commit early


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