If Virginia Tech hopes to rebound from the past two seasons, one of the major priorities has to be restoring the rushing attack.
In the 2011 season when Virginia Tech played in the Sugar Bowl, the Hokies averaged 186.9 yards per game on the ground. That number decreased to 145.8 and 119.8 in each of the past two seasons.
It is no coincidence that as Virginia Tech’s rushing attack has struggled, so have the Hokies. That has not been lost on Frank Beamer who believes the added experience at tailback will help improve the offense.
“Our running backs are a year older,” he said. “[Trey] Edmunds has looked good and J.C. Coleman has looked better than ever. I feel like we’re going to be better at tailback.”
The running game has focused largely on quarterback Logan Thomas in recent years. The bruising quarterback led the team in rushing yards in 2012 and was second on the team in 2013.
What the Hokies have lacked, however, is a speedy threat; someone who can get to the outside, break contain and breakaway from the defense. The 2014 Hokies, however, have several players who could establish themselves as that player.
“Those two freshmen [Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips] are going to make us explosive on outside,” said Beamer, “And [Josh] Stanford is an improved receiver and Demitri [Knowles] has been hurt, but his speed is always a factor. We have more explosive ability on the outside, and that helps your running game. So we plan to run the ball better.”
Virginia Tech will have no shortage of options to choose from this season, but for a team that once boasted Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson on the same roster, finding themselves without a consistent rushing attack is not where the Hokies expect themselves to be. For the players who are walking in the footsteps of former greats, they know there is a standard they have to play up to.
“We definitely see what we have to do,” said Edmunds. “We have expectations that we have to live up to, and we’re going to do our best to do that. We’re going to go hard in practice, and we’re going to try and protect our craft.”
Whatever success the Hokies have on the ground this season will likely be due in large part to Edmunds’ contribution.
The redshirt sophomore is expected to start this season 675 yards and two touchdowns in his freshman season. He really began to establish himself towards the end of the season before a broken leg cut the remainder of the year short.
Re-establishing the rushing attack, however, is about more than just the tailbacks. Like in all aspects of football, the running game is the product of many parts working in tandem.
While Beamer believes the Hokies will boast a more dynamic stable of tailbacks this season, it is the improvements elsewhere on the offense that he believes will help improve the rushing attach the most.
“I think we’re closer on the offensive line. I think we’re closer with our tight ends that can be a factor...That’s an element we haven’t had a lot of in the past, and those are elements we haven’t had. All those things help your running game.”
It will take an all-around effort for this team to return to the 185-yard average of seasons past, but Edmunds believes both he and the offense are ready for the challenge.
“We’re going to do all we can as a running back group,” he said, “And as an offense.”