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Balancing Time in the Backfield

Redshirt freshman running back Ryan Williams got the bulk of the carries during Virginia Tech’s 34-24 loss to Alabama on Saturday, with 13 carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns. But the Hokies are still working with multiple combinations to try to give all three of their inexperienced running backs an opportunity to prove themselves.

“If they’re not ready, there’s something wrong,” running backs coach Billy Hite said when asked if he reminded them to be prepared for their opportunity. “And they know that.”

Against the Crimson Tide, the running backs did not work in a rotation. As No. 14 Virginia Tech (0-1) prepares to face Marshall (1-0) on Saturday at Lane Stadium, the players said they have no idea how the playing time will be divided.

While the Thundering Herd’s defense does not resemble Alabama’s, it is the team’s strong suit and has talented athletes. Led by defensive end Albert McClellan and linebacker Mario Harvey, Marshall is a blitz-happy team with a tough front seven.

“The thing about Mashall is they have a heck of a football team defensively,” Hite said, adding, “It’s going to be tough to run the ball against them when the have eight or nine people in the box.”

Not only will the Hokies have to figure out how to run the ball against that pressure, they will have to determine who they will use to run the ball.

“There’s no way you can approach it,” Williams said. “You just have to be ready when you’re number’s called and your name is called.”

Against Alabama, Williams, a redshirt freshman, led the Hokies with 71 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. He was the first Virginia Tech running back to score two touchdowns in his first game since Shyrone Stith did it against Akron in 1996.

Josh Oglesby, a redshirt sophomore, had six carries for 16 yards against Alabama. He said he “was hoping to get a little more” playing time but was unable to play more because events during the game limited the Hokies’ time of possession and sometimes called for different personnel. Oglesby said he preferred playing every other series in order to feel comfortable.

Freshman David Wilson played against the Crimson Tide but did not receive any carries. The reason Wilson did not play more against Alabama, Hite said, was because Hite wanted Wilson to “experience success when he gets into a ballgame.” Hite said he hoped to play Wilson more against Marshall.

By Mark Viera  |  September 8, 2009; 4:28 PM ET
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Hopefully it breaks down on Saturday with Williams getting 60 percent of the carries, another 15 percent to Ogelsby, and Wilson getting some extended time

This should be a good chance for the young backups like Wilson to get an extended look

Posted by: madish32 | September 8, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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