User ID: Password:

May 8, 2014

Coleman, Williams lead contingent of running backs this spring

By: Jimmy Robertson

Following signing day this past February, a day in which Virginia Tech’s coaching staff signed two of the best tailback prospects in the country, Tech fans found themselves wondering how things would shake out at the tailback position with all those tailbacks on the roster.

But Hokie Nation can rest easy, as running backs coach Shane Beamer has a plan.

“We’ve got a top three coming out of spring, and we want those top guys working with the first-group offensive line [in August], so they’ll get the majority of the work,” Beamer said. “Then the rest of those guys will work with the next group. You can’t rep seven guys. I might be able to get away with getting them all reps that first week of practice, but after that, we need to narrow it down.”

Coming out of spring, J.C. Coleman, Marshawn Williams and Trey Edmunds stood as the top three tailbacks on the depth chart.

Edmunds, of course, missed spring practice while recovering from the broken leg that he suffered in the Virginia game last November. He started 10 games last season and led the Hokies with 675 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Tech’s sports medicine staff expects Edmunds to be 100 percent by the time August practices start.

“In our minds, Trey has earned the right to be in the top three based on what he did last year,” Beamer said. “We’ve got to see how he comes back from that injury, but we expect him to be 100 percent, and he’ll have the opportunity to show that he is.”

Coleman served mostly as Edmunds’ backup a year ago. He finished third on the team in rushing with 284 yards and a touchdown. This spring, he took on a leadership role, mentoring Tech’s stable of young backs. There is only one senior in Tech’s backfield – walk-on fullback Greg Gadell.

“J.C. didn’t have a bad day this spring,” Beamer said. “He was so consistent. He tried to be a leader and played with a lot of effort and energy. He did a good job.”

The talk of spring, though, was Williams, the 232-pound freshman who enrolled in January after graduating early from Phoebus [Va.] High School. As expected, he ran through tackles and ran over defenders, but he is more than just a bull in a china shop.

Williams possesses an uncanny ability to make people miss, which belies his size. His vision enables him to see holes quickly and then explode through them. Those attributes surprised Tech’s staff this spring.

“I didn’t know he had that much make-you-miss ability,” Beamer said. “I didn’t know he had the balance that he has. He’s a big guy to begin with, and even if people have a clean shot on him, he’s hard to bring down. Even if they hit his legs, he’s got great balance and is able to stay on his feet. He really picked up the offense, too. It’s important to him. He reminds me of J.C. when J.C. was a freshman. He watches a lot of video and picks stuff up. I can only think of a handful of busted assignments this spring.

“We’ve got to continue to keep his weight under control and get him faster and get him quicker. We’d like to get him in that 225-230 range. He needs to have a great summer with Coach [Mike] Gentry in the weight room and run his butt off and come back in great shape. But I’m excited about his potential.”

The other tailbacks in the mix include Joel Caleb, Chris Mangus, Jerome Wright and Shai McKenzie, who, like Williams, graduated from high school early and enrolled at Tech in January. McKenzie missed spring practice while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September. Beamer plans on getting McKenzie work in August practices to get a gauge on where he is in his rehab from the injury.

Beamer liked what he saw from the other tailbacks, but not quite enough to lift them to the top of the depth chart.

“I thought Joel had a really good spring,” Beamer said. “He will have the opportunity in the fall to get back in that top three. He brings a lot to the table. Right now, as far as being an every-down tailback, those other three guys are ahead of him, but I think he’s made a lot of strides. I’m not disappointed in Joel at all.

“Chris needs to be more consistent – on and off the field. He’s got tons of ability. He’s got speed. He’s got a burst. But he needs to get stronger.”

At fullback, Sam Rogers returns and enjoyed a terrific spring. His versatility as a runner, receiver and blocker appeal to the staff, as well as his instincts. He knows the offense, and football just makes sense to him.

“I think we could put him at any position on our team except for maybe offensive line or defensive line, and he’d find a way to get it done,” Beamer said. “I look out my office window, and half the time, he’s on the practice field working on something. He’s going to get every single ounce out of his ability and body that he can, and he’s just a really good football player.”

The Hokies averaged 120 yards rushing per game a year ago – not up to their usual standards. But the talent and depth are in place, and hopefully that number rises substantially this fall.

2014 SPRING DEPTH CHART (as of April 22)


4 J.C. Coleman (5-7, 191, Jr.)

14 Trey Edmunds (6-1, 217, r-So.) – injured this spring

42 Marshawn Williams (5-11, 232, Fr.)

15 Joel Caleb (6-2, 205, r-So.)

28 Chris Mangus (6-0, 182, r-So.)

39 Daniel Dyer (5-10, 208, r-Sr.)

25 Jerome Wright (6-2, 224, So.)

22 Shai McKenzie (5-10, 212, Fr.) – injured this spring


45 Sam Rogers (5-10, 215, So.)

47 Greg Gadell (5-10, 214, r-Sr.)

46 Griffin Hite (5-11, 234, r-Jr.)

44 Mike Wandey (5-11, 223, r-Fr.)