Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 15 No. 1 | August 2022 17 Continued on page 18 Brown connected on 60-of-108 passes for 721 yards and eight touchdowns during the 2021 season for Shane Beamer’s side who ultimately won the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. After leading the garnet and black to two big-time victories against Florida and Auburn, he was viewed as a fan favorite during his brief stint in Columbia. Prior to South Carolina, Brown was a 2019 FCS All-America selection at St. Francis (Pa.) after leading the Northeast Conference with 3,084 passing yards, completing 62.3 percent of his passes while delivering 28 touchdowns against six interceptions. QB NOTES •Wells went 14-9 as a starter at Marshall •Wells earned Honorable Mention All-Conference accolades in 2021 after ranking 15th in the nation with 3,532 passing yards •Wells became the first freshman quarterback to earn First Team AllConference USA honors in the league’s history • Brown went 2-2 as a starter at South Carolina, leading the Gamecocks to wins over Florida and Auburn • Brown completed 60 of 108 passes (55.6%) for eight TDs with six INTs at South Carolina • Brown was a 2019 FCS All-America selection at St. Francis (Pa.) after leading the Northeast Conference with 3,084 passing yards POSITION OUTLOOK Whether it’s Wells or Brown who leads the Hokies onto the field on Sept. 2, Tech will be in good hands with an experienced quarterback who is eager to attack the next challenge. RUNNING BACKS PLAYERS TO WATCH Tech’s backfield may feature one ‘workhorse’ or it may be a stable of talented, productive backs who give Bowen and the offense versatility. At ACC Kickoff, Pry indicated that he had not determined which system he prefers, but is looking for production in the running game. Where might that come from? Jalen Holston, Malachi Thomas and Keshawn King are names that quickly come to mind. Holston, a sixth-year senior, rushed for 199 yards and five touchdowns on 52 carries a season ago, registering an additional receiving touchdown while serving on many of the Hokies’ special teams coverage units. Thomas is back for his sophomore season after announcing himself last fall against Syracuse, rushing for three touchdowns during his 151-yard afternoon on the ground at Lane Stadium. The Hartwell, Georgia native was relied upon heavily throughout the second half of the year, finishing his rookie campaign by rushing for 440 yards on 93 carries. Meanwhile, King recorded 29 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown a season ago, showing flashes of his speed and productivity we saw him boast as a freshman in 2019 prior to opting out of the 2020 season. Stu Holt, Tech’s running backs coach, will certainly have his fair share of decisions to make, but will have a contingent of experienced student-athletes to select from as camp opens. OTHERS IN THE MIX Redshirt-freshman Chance Black and highly-regarded true freshman Bryce Duke are on campus and eager to show their talents on the field. Tech suddenly has a lot of different avenues it can explore when trying to determine who will earn the majority of the carries when toe meets leather during the coming weeks. Black has yet to rush the ball during his time with the maroon and orange, but has shown his flashes of speed inside Tech’s kick return game throughout the latter portions of the 2021 season. RB NOTES • Virginia Tech ran for 2,408 total yards in 2021, but will have to replace its top two rushers in Raheem Blackshear and Braxton Burmeister • Holston has produced 1,070 all-purpose yards during his career with nine touchdowns • Thomas is the Hokies’ lead returning ball carrier from 2021 POSITION OUTLOOK The flexibility of having three members of the backfield returning will be a nice luxury for Pry and company to have when determining who will earn the majority of reps. Holston has the experience, Thomas has the explosiveness, King has the speed. The number of guys Tech’s coaching staff plans to use in the backfield regularly, though, remains to be seen. WIDE RECEIVERS PLAYERS TO WATCH With the departure of the offense’s top two targets from a season ago, the receiving room will certainly look a bit different with redshirt-junior Kaleb Smith assuming the leadership role as the elder statesman. He represented the Hokies at ACC Kickoff after a winter and spring where Pry described him as ‘one of the team’s best workers’. The Bumpass, Virginia product totaled 20 receptions for 260 yards and two touchdowns a season ago and will be poised for a big season after a couple of breakout outings during 2021. The former walk-on stole the show at Tech’s 2022 Spring Game, grabbing two touchdowns to lead the Maroon Team to the 26-10 win. Temple graduate transfer Jadan Blue figures to be a nice addition to the Hokies’ receiving game, led by wide receivers coach Fontel Mines. Blue, a native of Hightstown, New Jersey, caught 169 passes for 1,662 yards and 10 touchdowns in 35 games with the Owls. Another potential playmaker is 5-foot-11 sophomore Da’Wain Lofton, who posted seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown during his freshman season. MALACHI THOMAS