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August 21, 2012

Holmes ready to assume mantle as Tech's next great running back

By: Jimmy Robertson

Soft-spoken Michael Holmes is quickly becoming one of the more popular players on Tech’s squad, as evidenced by the ribbing he gets from his teammates, even the lesser known ones.

For example, he occasionally gets grief from Scott Rolin, a walk-on free safety from Ashburn, Va., who played at Briar Woods High School. Rolin’s Briar Woods team knocked off Holmes’ Harrisonburg High squad 41-21 in the Group AA Division 4 state championship game in 2010, and the two recently got together to watch the game again on video.

“I still like to see what we did as a team,” Holmes said, with a smile. “I tell him that they won because of the refs. That’s always my excuse. A couple of plays got called back, so I say it was because of the refs. But it really wasn’t. They beat us fair and square.”

Holmes, though, may end up getting the last word, as the redshirt freshman appears poised to pick up where David Wilson left off from last season. He came out of spring practice on the throne at Tech’s prestigious tailback spot, while also winning the Paul Torgersen Award as the top offensive newcomer of spring practice.

“I think it [spring practice] went well for me,” Holmes said. “I think it went well for a lot of people, not just me. I still need work. I still need practice. There are things I need to work on. I need to get better as a blocker. I’m getting good at that, but I still need to get better. Practice and repetition makes you better.”

Holmes’ progress will go a long way toward determining the fate of Tech’s offense this season. Wilson set a school record with 1,709 yards rushing last season and took his gifts to the NFL, leaving a huge void at the position and within Tech’s offense.

Holmes himself is the anti-Wilson. He isn’t particularly flashy, but he possesses sneaky size (208 pounds) and speed, as those who saw his 60-yard touchdown run in one of the scrimmages this spring can attest. He patiently waits for holes to open, resembling former Tech tailback Lee Suggs in that regard. He patterns his game after Houston Texans’ Arian Foster – a worthy comparison.

“He’s so patient,” Holmes said. “You want to hit the hole, but you wait for your blocks to develop. When you see the hole, you hit it.”

Holmes will be fending off challenges from freshman J.C. Coleman and redshirt senior Martin Scales. Also, Trey Edmunds, one of the top recruits in this past recruiting class, figures into the mix. Tech’s coaches had planned on working Edmunds at whip linebacker, but decided his skills at tailback and their needs would make for a better fit.

Regardless, Holmes is ready.

“It’s a competition, but we’re teammates and we try to help each other each and every day,” Holmes said. “We’re all trying to get better.”

Leading the way in front of Holmes and the rest of the tailbacks will be fullbacks Joey Phillips and Riley Beiro. Tech’s staff doesn’t use them very often, but both possess size and toughness – two prerequisites for the position.

As a whole, the group has a lot to live up to this season. The Hokies ranked second in the ACC in rushing offense a year ago (186.9 ypg) and third in total offense (413 ypg). But the unit lost nine starters.

“In the spring, we did well,” Holmes said. “That was just a start. We’ve got a lot of practices ahead of us, and practice makes perfect. Everyone’s trying to get better.”


20 Michael Holmes (6-0, 208, r-Fr.)

4 J.C. Coleman (5-8, 192, Fr.)

25 Martin Scales (5-11, 222, r-Sr.)

22 Tony Gregory (6-0, 185, r-Jr.)

39 Daniel Dyer (5-9, 196, r-Soph.)

14 Trey Edmunds (6-2, 212, Fr.)



45 Joey Phillips (5-11, 234, r-Sr.)

32 Riley Beiro (5-9, 228, r-Soph.)
40 Greg Gaddell (5-10, 195, r-Soph.)


Returning starter: Joey Phillips (5 career starts)

Starter lost: David Wilson (15 career starts)

Projected new starter: Michael Holmes

Top reserves: J.C. Coleman, Martin Scales, Trey Edmunds, Riley Beiro

Newcomers: Holmes, Coleman, Edmunds

Breakout candidate: Holmes

Notes: Holmes rushed for more than 5,000 yards his final two years combined at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, Va. … He also scored 82 touchdowns combined in that span … Coleman rushed for 2,800 yards and scored 41 touchdowns his final two years at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va. … Scales played fullback last season, but has the skills and versatility to play both positions.